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How to Manage Common Medication Side Effects – July 2024

Whether you have a short- or long-term illness or medical condition, it’s important to take your medications as directed. But when medications cause side effects, you may want to stop taking them. Don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first so they can help you taper off the medications safely. Here are some tips that can help you prevent and manage common medication side effects.


Perhaps the most important tip when taking any medication or supplement is to stay well hydrated. Side effects can often happen — or worsen — when you don’t drink enough fluid during the day. Adults should aim for 8 to 10 cups of clear liquid every day, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).


Nausea or upset stomach are common side effects of taking new medications or increasing your dosage. This often happens shortly after taking the medication.

Common medications that cause nausea include antibiotics, digoxin, opioid painkillers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may cause dizziness, which can trigger nausea.

To prevent or reduce nausea, the NLM offers these tips:

  • Unless you need to take medications on an empty stomach, take all your medications and supplements with some bland food.
  • Stay upright and seated after taking your medication. Lying down or moving around right away may make the nausea worse.
  • Sip on fruit juices. Or try flat soda, like ginger ale. Leave the bottle or can open long enough that the bubbles stop.
  • Eat several smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Suck on sugarless hard candy.
  • Take SSRIs at bedtime to reduce the dizziness that triggers nausea.


Using prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication too often can cause rebound headaches. The medical term is medication overuse headache (MOH). This includes prescription drugs like ergotamine and triptans for migraine pain and opioid and barbiturate painkillers. It also includes OTC drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and decongestants to unblock a stuffy nose.

To prevent MOH, don’t use any prescription or OTC painkiller or decongestant for more than three days per week.


Taking antibiotics to treat bacterial infections can disrupt your gut microbiome and cause diarrhea. To manage diarrhea related to antibiotics or other medications, follow these steps:

  • Take a probiotic supplement (to avoid killing the good bacteria, take it halfway between the time you take your antibiotics) or eat foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt.
  • Continue taking probiotics for at least a week after you stop the antibiotic or as long as your doctor or pharmacist advises.


Medications for allergies, pain, and mental health issues (such as anxiety or depression) can often cause drowsiness. If a medication causes drowsiness, there will be a warning on the medication label. These tips can also help:

  • When possible, take these medications before going to bed. That way, you can sleep off the drowsiness.
  • Take a nap during the day.
  • Get some fresh air and physical activity, such as walking outdoors.

Sometimes you have to take these medications during the day. The first time you use them, don’t drive or use any heavy machinery so you can see your reaction to them.

What to do if side effects don’t go away

If you still can’t manage your side effects at home — or if your side effects are sudden or severe — call your doctor. Your doctor can often prescribe a different medication — or a lower dose of the medication you’re taking — to reduce medication-induced side effects.

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