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Medication Side Effects

All medications have the potential to cause secondary, unwanted and/or adverse effects.

Adverse Effects

Adverse effects are any undesirable experience associated with the use of a medical product in a patient. Medication side effects can include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Change in activity or mood
  • Dizziness
  • Flushing, sweating
  • Rashes
  • Rapid heartbeat

The effects of medication can vary from child to child. For example, the same antihistamine can make one child sleepy while another becomes jittery and hyperactive. Side effects that could be normal for one medication might be abnormal for another. A fast heart rate, for instance, is expected for albuterol, an asthma medication, but not for an antibiotic.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions may involve many different types of symptoms such as:

  • Swelling
  • Rash
  • Difficulty breathing

Allergic reactions are difficult to predict and range from mild (redness of skin, itching) to severe (life threatening). Skin disturbances are the most common.

When To Call

​When Should You Call 911?
When Should You Call Poison Control?

When you see signs of distress including:

  • Loss of (or change in) consciousness
  • Blue color or difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, or face, or drooling
  • Seizure activity
  • Rapidly spreading rash or hives
  • Impaired speech or mobility
  • Getting worse quickly
  • When in doubt ​
  • ​When medication is given to the wrong child
  • When the wrong medication is given to a child
  • When the wrong dose is given (overdose)
  • When a medication is given by the wrong route or using the wrong procedure
  • When a medication is given at the wrong time (and it results in an extra dose)
Note: The AAP no longer recommends that syrup of ipecac be used
Last Updated
Adapted from Curriculum for Medication Administration in Early Education and Child Care Settings (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2012)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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