Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Ask your doctor about potential side effects of a medicine.

Ask your doctor about potential side effects of a medicine.
beginning of content

Medicine and side effects

3-minute read

Side effects are unwanted effects of a medicine. All medicines can cause side effects. It’s important to know the side effects of your medicines so that you know what to do if you get them.

What are medicine side effects?

Any unwanted or unexpected effects of a medicine are called side effects. They are also sometimes called adverse effects or adverse reactions. Side effects can also occur with interactions with other medicines or food.

Not all side effects are serious. Most are mild, although some medicines have serious side effects.

You can often avoid side effects by taking the medicine exactly according to the instructions, for example after eating food, or at a certain time of the day.

Some side effects may get better over time. For example, a new medicine might cause nausea at first but then this will go away. Sometimes side effects don’t happen right away but develop after taking the medicine for a while.

What types of medicines can cause side effects?

All types of medicines can have side effects. This includes prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines that you can buy from a pharmacy, supermarket or other shops. Vitamins and minerals can also have side effects, as can any herbal, complementary, alternative or natural medicine.

Even though all medicines can cause side effects, not everyone will get them.

How to get help if you have side effects

If you think you might be having a serious side effect, see your doctor or hospital immediately. If it’s an emergency, call triple zero (000).

If you think you have taken too much of a medicine, call the Poisons Information Centre, 24 hours a day on 13 11 26.

If it’s not an emergency but the side effects are bothering you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) to speak to a registered nurse.

Where to get information on side effects

For information about potential side effects, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Here are some questions you might want ask.

  • What are the possible side effects of the medicine?
  • How commonly do the side effects happen?
  • Does the medicine have any serious side effects, and what’s the risk?
  • What can I do to avoid or reduce the risk of side effects?
  • Do the side effects get better with time?
  • What should I do if I think I’m having a side effect?

You can also get information on side effects from the medicine’s Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet, which is available from your pharmacist for all prescription and some non-prescription medicines. You can also search for CMIs in healthdirect's medicines section.

Thinking about side effects

If you are thinking about starting a new medicine, it is worth thinking about the side effects. How common are they? How serious are they? And what do they mean to you?

This is especially important if you have a serious health condition and the medicines might have serious side effects.

Looking for more medicine information?

healthdirect’s medicines section allows you to search for medicines by brand name or active ingredient. It provides useful information about medicines such as their use, whether they are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and product recalls.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Side effects of Medicine -

Side effects are unwanted effects that can happen while you are taking a medicine.

Read more on website

Report a side effect of a medicine | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

Read more on TGA – Therapeutic Goods Administration website

Medicine & side effects

All medicines have possible side effects, but not everybody will experience them. Learn about questions to ask when you are prescribed a new medicine.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Is my medicine causing side effects?

It is possible that the medicines you are taking might be causing certain symptoms, such as falls, confusion, forgetfulness, or feeling unsteady.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Adverse reactions to alternative medicines - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Adverse reactions to complementary and alternative medicines (CAM)

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Methadone Side Effects, Withdrawal and Treatment | Your Room

Methadone comes with many short and long term side effects. Find out what to do in the case of addiction or treatment overdose and places to get help.

Read more on NSW Health website

10 questions: reporting side effects | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

Reporting side effects helps us monitor the safety of medicines and medical devices. Learn the basics of adverse events.

Read more on TGA – Therapeutic Goods Administration website

Endone - side effects, dosage and interactions -

Endone - medicine information including side effects, dosage and interactions.

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Managing your medicines - NPS MedicineWise

Learn about how to manage your medicines to get the best results, & reduce the risk of side effects & interactions.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Side effects | Cancer Institute NSW

It is good to be prepared for side effects and know how to manage them.

Read more on Cancer Institute NSW website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.