Drugs and Side Effects


When one thinks about medications, one tends to think of their intended effects, which are to make uncomfortable conditions (e.g., diseases, symptoms) better. These effects are the desired, therapeutic effects.However, your pharmacist often tells you about other effects that your medication can bring about. These effects are usually not desired and are called adverse drug reactions or side effects.

Your pharmacist will tell you what to expect from a medication and how to control any side effects.

Some adverse effects appear quickly, others take several days or even months to develop. Some are very easy to spot while others are invisible, or need thorough testing to be unveiled. Some side effects last the whole treatment, while others are only temporary.

Drug treatment should not be changed every time a side effect appears. An adverse reaction may be temporary and disappear by itself. Sometimes a simple dose modification is enough.

Managing Side Effects

Side effectsWhat you can do...
Heartburn Take your medicine with food or milk, unless your pharmacist has told you to take it on an empty stomach.
Constipation Drinking copiously, exercising regularly and increasing fibre intake.
Itching Apply moist compresses or take frequent warm baths or showers.
Diarrhea Drink copiously to prevent dehydration. If you have fever or are experiencing pain, dizziness as well as diarrhea, consult your physician.
Dizziness Avoid abrupt movements and quick changes in position. Avoid activities that require concentration such as driving as well as meticulous work until reaction to medication has been established. It may be preferable to take this medication at night.
Insomnia Check if you can take your medication earlier in the day. This effect may decrease with time. Do relaxation exercises before going to bed.
Headaches This side effect is often temporary. Taking acetaminophen generally relieves this type of pain.
Water retention (mild) This effect is most often noticeable around the ankles and legs. Limit the amount of salt you add to foods and avoid very salty foods.
Dry mouth Drink copiously, use lip balm, suck on sour candy or pieces of ice. Chewing sugarless gum may also help reduce discomfort. It is preferable to avoid tea and coffee which have dehydrating properties.
Dry nose or throat Over the counter products can also be taken to alleviate discomfort. Vaporizers that contain saline solution or special gels that hydrate the nasal membrane can also provide some relief. To choose a product that meets your needs, speak to your pharmacist.
Drowsiness Avoid activities that require concentration such as driving a car as well as meticulous activities until reaction to medication has been established. It may be preferable to take this medication at night to reduce side effects during the day.

Talk to your pharmacist about any symptoms that you think are caused by your medications before you stop taking the medication.In the chart below you will find a list of the most common side effects and the simple measures you can take to control them. Talk to your pharmacist if a side effect persists for more than a few days or becomes bothersome.

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