Coping with the Side Effects of Medications

Often medications have unwanted effects. These vary from person to person and depend on the type of drug and dose being given. Sometimes the side effects disappear after a few days or weeks. Other side effects are more troublesome and persistent. It’s very important to report any unwanted effects your medication seems to be having to your doctor as soon as possible. The side effects can often be eliminated, made milder or made easier to tolerate by making some simple changes.

Changes your doctor may suggest:

  • Changing to a different medication
  • Decreasing the dose
  • Taking the medication in several, smaller doses spread over the day
  • Taking the medication with appropriate food
  • Taking another medication to counteract the side effects

Changes you can make on your own:

Side Effect Coping Strategy
Appetite increase
  • Eat foods that are low in fat and high in fiber
  • Avoid sugary and fatty foods
  • Replace soft drinks with water, or with low-calorie versions
Constipation
  • Increase exercise
  • Increase fiber in diet
  • Increase fluid intake
Dizziness
  • Get up slowly from lying or sitting
  • Avoid overly hot showers or baths
  • Avoid alcohol, sedatives or other sedating drugs (like marijuana)
Drowsiness
  • Take medication in a single dose before bedtime (talk to your doctor about this first). If you feel sleepy during the day, you should not drive or work with machinery.
Dry mouth
  • Drink water frequently and throughout the day
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine (both cause water loss)
  • Use sugarless gums, lozenges or lollipops (sugar causes dental decay)
  • Suck on ice cubes
  • If it’s very bad, ask your doctor about artificial saliva
Sensitivity to sunburn
  • Avoid the midday sun
  • Use sunscreen daily and wear a hat, sunglasses and shirt when outdoor
  • Ask your doctor for a prescription for sunscreen