Mnemonic Monday: “HEN PEcKS” – 1st + 2nd Generation Cephalosporins

hen pecks

By Molly Lewis

Learning antibiotics can be quite overwhelming- trade names, generic names, spectrums of activity, side effects, etc.- so many details! To make it a bit more manageable, I used as many mnemonics as I could find or create! Here is one of my favorites.

The different generations of cephalosporins are active against different bugs. For the first and second generations, try using the mnemonic “HEN PecKS” to remember the spectrum of bacteria covered by each generation.


First generation:


PEcK = Proteus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella

  • In addition, the first generation ceph’s cover gram positive cocci such as: methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Streptococcus pyogenes
    • 2 commonly used first generation ceph’s are:
      • cephalexin (Keflex – oral)
      • cefazolin (Ancef – IV)
  • This class is often used prior to surgery to cover the skin flora that could contaminate the sterile field. Cephalexin is also sometimes used for otitis media (Strep pneumo), streptococcal pharyngitis, bone and joint infections (Staph aureus), pneumonia, cellulitis (Staph or strep), and urinary tract infections (E. coli!).

Second generation:


HEN PEcKS= Haemophilus influenze, Enterobacter aerogenes, Neisseria, Proteus, E. Coli, Klebsiella, Serratia marcescens

  • In addition, 2nd generation ceph’s are active against gram positive cocci like Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus species (spp), but NOT Streptococcus faecalis (group D strep- in the GI tract)
    • However, their action against gram positive cocci is generally not as strong as the 1st generation ceph’s
  • An example of 2nd generation cephalosporin is cefuroxime (Ceftin), which is used for Neisseria gonorrhea infections and Lyme disease

Do you have a mnemonic for remembering any of the billions of details associated with antibiotics? Post it below!

Or, if you want a mnemonic for a certain detail, post your suggestion below, and maybe we can help!





6 thoughts on “Mnemonic Monday: “HEN PEcKS” – 1st + 2nd Generation Cephalosporins”

  1. Buy AT 30, CCEL at 50. TeratogeNic AminoGlycoSides (tobra, neo, amik, genta, strepto -micin), and ACE:macrolides (azithro, clinda, erythro). Tetracyclins; VACUuM THe BedRoom (coverage)

  2. Yeah, the Buy AT 30 and CCEK at 50 is one of my favorites, too! I just used it last week! (and I learned it from the antimicrobial portion of First Aid!).

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