Side Effects and Adverse Reactions

What are they and what should you do?

Side Effect – An unpleasant effect of a drug that happens in addition to the main effect of that drug.

Adverse Reaction – A negative or harmful effect caused by a medicine

Interaction – When one medicine affects the way that another medicine works in the body, potentially to a harmful effect.

Contra-indication: – A sign that someone should not continue with a particular medicine or treatment because it is or might be harmful.

Side effects and adverse reactions can occur with any medicines. The more medicines a person takes, the more likely it is that an interaction between medicines will occur, making the person unwell. In the section above, some of the side effects of the different types of drugs were listed and whilst it is not expected that you know all the side effects of all the different types of medicines by heart, it is very useful to know the kinds of things to look out for when a service user is given a different medication than he or she normally has.

Common side effects

The most common side effects seen with medicines are:-

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrheoa
  • Drowsiness
  • Rashes
  • Indigestion/heartburn
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

If a service user has had a change in medication and you notice that they are unwell or not their usual selves in some way this could be an indication that they are experiencing a side-effect, adverse reaction or interaction with their medication.

What do you do?

  1. Make a note of the symptoms on the medicines administration chart or other service user records.
  2. Report the concern to your line manager
  3. Seek advice from the doctor or pharmacist
  4. If out of hours – call NHS direct
  5. Record the advice given on the medicines administration chart or other service user records.
  6. If the service user becomes seriously unwell you may need to contact the emergency services.

Do not:-

  1. Stop the medication
  2. Give the service user any advice without first seeking advice from a health professional
  3. Do not recommend other medicines to treat the symptoms without first seeking advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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