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What to watch out for when taking your medicines

Side effects, or adverse drug reactions, are unwanted effects that may happen when medicines are used under normal conditions.

Before taking any medicine, you should know:

  • What side effects might occur
  • Which side effects are considered serious
  • What to do if the side effect does happen
  • When the side effect might happen
  • How long the side effect might last

Ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse which side effects you should report. It may be better to change your medicine to a different one if the side effects are too strong. There may be another medicine that is better for you.

Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) is the term used by Health Canada for “side effects”. Health Canada describes them as “ranging from minor irritations such as skin rash to serious and life-threatening reactions such as a hear attack or liver damage”. “They can occur within minutes after taking a medication or can take years to develop”.

Seek medical attention right away if you are having:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Metallic taste or itching in the mouth
  • Widespread redness or itching of the skin
  • Fast heart rate and a sudden fall in blood pressure
  • Pale skin and suddenly feeling weak

If you think you are having a serious adverse drug reaction (side effect), seek medical attention right away.


Patients should also directly report adverse drug reactions to Health Canada using online forms specially designed for consumer use by clicking here or by calling toll-free at 1-866-234-2345.