Common medicine side effects and how to deal with them

When your doctor prescribes you a medicine, try not to be put off taking your new treatment by reading the information leaflet that comes with it. Yes, all medicines can have side effects.

Drug manufacturers have to list all the possible side effects that could be attributed to their medicine, but in reality, the majority of people don’t actually experience any side effects.

Common side effects aren’t as likely as they might sound. For example, if a headache is listed as a commonly occurring side effect, this actually means that if 100 people take that medicine, between 1 and 10 of them might get a headache. By default, that also means that between 90 and 99 of them won’t.

The most common side effects experienced with medicines are usually minor, easily solved and often tend to improve as your body gets used to the medicine.

You’re extremely unlikely to experience any of the rare, more serious side effects that are listed in the patient information leaflet.

Here are some tips for coping with some of the most common side effects that you might experience when taking medicines.

1. Headache

Common culprits: amlodipine, atorvastatin, nitrates, sertraline, citalopram, omeprazole

What to do about it:

Make sure you’re getting enough rest and drinking enough water. Avoid drinking alcohol.

Try a head massage or take a painkiller. Paracetamol can be taken by most people and alongside most other medicines.

See your doctor if you get a headache that’s particularly severe, doesn’t go away with painkillers or is accompanied by disturbances to your vision.

2. Constipation

Common culprits: iron tablets and opioid painkillers like morphine, codeine and co-codamol

What to do about it:

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, eating enough fiber and getting regular exercise. Try dried prunes or apricots.

If you’re taking iron tablets talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possibly changing the formulation of iron you’re taking.

If these measures don’t improve things, ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable laxative.

3. Diarrhea

Common culprits: antibiotics like amoxicillin, sertraline

What to do about it:

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of liquid to replace the fluids you’re losing and avoid getting dehydrated. You can use rehydration sachets like Dioralyte if needed. Ask your pharmacist for advice before using medicines like loperamide to stop the diarrhea.

See your doctor if you get diarrhea that is very severe, lasts for longer than a few days, or contains blood or mucus, particularly if you’ve been taking an antibiotic.

4. Indigestion, stomach ache or upset stomach

Common culprits: steroids like prednisolone, anti-inflammatory painkillers like naproxen or ibuprofen, antibiotics

What to do about it:

Taking the medicine with or after food or a drink of milk can help. Stick to plain foods – avoid rich and spicy meals and drinking alcohol. A stomach ache can sometimes be eased with a hot water bottle on your tummy.

Get advice from your pharmacist before using antacids – these can affect the absorption of some medicines.

Many people who find they get diarrhea or an upset stomach with a course of antibiotics find that taking probiotics can help.

5. Feeling sick

Common culprits: metformin, levodopa, antibiotics, sertraline, citalopram, tramadol

What to do about it:

Taking the medicine with some food, even just a cracker or a ginger biscuit, can often help. A fizzy drink can sometimes ease feelings of nausea.

If a medicine actually makes you vomit, then get advice about whether you need to take another dose.

6. Dry mouth

Common culprits: antidepressants, particularly tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline, medicines for urinary incontinence like oxybutynin

What to do about it:

Try taking frequent sips of water or chewing sugar-free gum.

7. Drowsiness

Common culprits: opioid painkillers like morphine and tramadol, gabapentin and pregabalin, benzodiazepines like diazepam for anxiety, some antihistamines, some antidepressants.

What to do about it:

If you feel sleepy when taking a medicine, don’t drive or operate machines. Also take extra care with potentially hazardous activities like riding a bike.

Avoid drinking alcohol and taking other medicines that cause drowsiness. These are likely to make the problem worse.

If sleepiness is a problem, then talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Changing the time of day you take your medicine might help. For instance, if an antidepressant is making you feel really wiped out during the day, then taking your dose before you go to bed may be better for you.

You can also talk to your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives that don’t cause drowsiness.

8. Insomnia

Common culprits: nicotine replacement therapies, SSRI antidepressants like sertraline or citalopram.

What to do about it:

If you feel like a medicine is causing you problems getting to sleep then avoid taking a dose too late in the day.

9. Feeling dizzy

Common culprits: tramadol, medicines to lower blood pressure like ramipril, bisoprolol, propranolol or doxazosin (also used for an enlarged prostate gland).

What to do about it:

Lie down until the feeling passes. Moving more slowly when getting up from sitting or lying down can help avoid dizziness. Avoid drinking alcohol.

Taking your dose at bedtime rather than in the morning can be helpful.

If you often feel dizzy or faint, or this doesn’t improve within a few days of starting treatment, see your doctor because lowering your dose may help.

10. Skin rashes or dermatitis

Common culprits: any medicine, particularly antibiotics.

What to do about it:

Itchy rashes can be eased by using a moisturizer or taking an antihistamine.

However, you should always get advice from your doctor or pharmacist if you get a rash after starting a medicine, particularly a course of antibiotics. It could be a sign of an allergic reaction to the medicine.

Some medicines, such as oxytetracycline and amiodarone, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight than usual. If this is a common problem with the medicine you’re taking, make sure you follow any instructions about minimising sun exposure or using sun-cream to protect your skin – these are normally printed on the label and also included in the patient information leaflet.




Stellapharm is one of leading generics pharmaceutical companies and strong producer of anti-viral drugs in Vietnam. The company established in Vietnam in 2000; and focuses on both prescription drugs and non-prescription especially in cardiovascular diseases, antiviral drugs, anti-diabetics drugs, etc. and our products are now used by millions of patients in more than 50 countries worldwide.

The company is globally recognized for its quality through our facilities have been audited and approved by stringent authority like EMA, PMDA, Taiwan GMP, local WHO and others.

Additional information for this article: Stellapharm J.V. Co., Ltd. – Branch 1
A: 40 Tu Do Avenue, Vietnam – Singapore Industrial Park, An Phu Ward, Thuan An City, Binh Duong Province, Vietnam
T: +84 274 376 7470 | F: +84 274 376 7469 | E: | W:

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