Anyone can feel side effects from a medicine. There is no way to know for sure if a medicine will cause side effects for you. It may depend on how much of the medicine you take, how old you are, and how much you weigh. It also may depend on your sex and what other health problems you have. Older adults are more likely to have side effects than younger adults.
You may notice side effects when you start to take a medicine, change the dose, or stop using the medicine. And a medicine you've often taken without getting side effects may suddenly cause side effects. Or the side effects may stop.
Here are some important things to think about when taking medicines:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects continue to bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. Your doctor may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
When to call
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you take a medicine and you:
- Have trouble breathing.
- Get hives.
- Have swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Faint (lose consciousness) or feel like you may faint.
Preventing side effects
There are many things you can do to prevent and prepare for side effects. Before you take any medicine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about:
- The possible side effects of the medicine and those you may be likely to have.
- How soon side effects may start.
- Whether they may go away on their own.
- Whether you can do anything to prevent them. For example, taking a medicine with food or at a certain time of day may help with side effects.
- Whether you need any tests to check for side effects.
- What you can do to manage mild side effects.
- When and who you should call for help with side effects.
- Whether you can drink alcohol when you are taking the medicine.
Dealing with mild side effects
Medicines work in a delicate balance with your body and with each other. Sometimes the balance tips, and this can cause side effects or medicine interactions.
Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine. Always talk to your doctor first. Suddenly stopping could cause your symptoms to come back or could cause other health problems.
Here are some tips to help you manage some common side effects from medicines.
- Eat bran and other whole-grain cereals and high-fiber fruits and vegetables, such as apples, prunes, beans, and broccoli.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Get exercise.
- Daytime drowsiness.
- This problem usually goes away as your body adjusts to the medicine.
- Ask your doctor if you can take your medicine at bedtime.
- Do not drive or operate heavy equipment when you feel drowsy.
- Eat mild, low-fiber foods, such as applesauce, rice, and yogurt.
- Avoid spicy and high-fat foods until you feel better.
- Get up slowly from sitting or lying down.
- Dry mouth.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy.
- Take frequent sips of water throughout the day.
- These usually will go away as your body adjusts to the medicine.
- Ask your doctor what medicine you can take for a headache.
- Loss of appetite.
- Try to eat more often. Have healthy snacks between meals.
- Include favorite foods at each meal.
- Take a walk before you eat. This may make you more hungry.
- Eat several smaller meals a day rather than two or three large meals.
- Try peppermint candy or gum. Peppermint can help settle your stomach.
- Eat bland foods, such as dry crackers or plain bread. Avoid fried, greasy, sweet, and spicy foods.
- Ask your doctor if you can take the medicine with food.
- Feeling nervous or on edge.
- This will probably go away soon.
- If it lasts, ask your doctor if you can lower your dose.
- Sexual problems.
- Ask your doctor if you can take a lower dose.
- Ask your doctor if there is another medicine you can try.
- Sleep problems.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
- Don't exercise in the late afternoon or evening.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Use a sleep mask and earplugs.
- If these problems don't go away over time, ask your doctor about lowering your dose.
- Change the time of day you take your medicine to the morning.