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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Side effects of medicines

Ngā pānga kē atu o ngā rongoā


If you've developed symptoms of tongue swelling, lip or facial swelling and difficulty breathing, this could be an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis and you should call 111.

All medicines can have side effects. Most are mild and go away after a while. Some side effects are more severe, such as allergic reactions.

Sometimes, side effects can happen or be worse because of an interaction between the medicine and other medicines, or food or alcohol.

People react differently to medicines. If you think a medicine is making you feel unwell, it's important that you talk to a health professional about what to do.

When starting a new medicine, read the label and any accompanying consumer safety information. For most medicines, you can also read a locally written and approved medication factsheet.

Remember, over-the-counter medicines and supplements can also cause side effects and may react with prescribed medicines. It's important to tell your general practice team if you're taking any over-the-counter medicines or supplements if they're prescribing you any medications.

Avoiding side effects

Make sure you're using the medicine correctly and know of any signs to watch out for or precautions to take. If you aren't sure about anything, contact your pharmacist or another health professional before starting the medicine.

Check if you should avoid some supplements, foods or alcohol while taking your medicine.

Some medications increase the risk of falls which can be a problem for older people. In particular, you should be careful with any medications that can affect your sense of balance, coordination or awareness. Tell your general practice team or pharmacist if you have any dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vision problems or feel unsteady on your feet.

Make sure all health professionals treating you know which medicines do not suit you. Keep a list or apply for a medical alert bracelet or pendant. Search online for medical bracelets NZ to find medical bracelet suppliers.

Reporting side effects

Reporting suspected side effects of medicines can improve medicine safety for everyone. Both health professionals and the general public can do this. This online form lets you report side effects to medicines and supplements.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.


See also:

How to take medicines

Safe use, storage, & disposal of medicines

Page reference: 493557

Review key: HISEM-493557