Treatment training manual

4.11 How to report side effects

It is not good for anyone if side effects are allowed to continue.

Often this is because the doctor doesn’t understand the problem.

If you want your doctor to help, you need to clearly describe your side effects and how they affect you.

Your doctor will need to check for all causes. For example, diarrhoea might be caused by food poisoning. Or a low sex drive might be related to low testosterone levels.

Recording side effects

The best way record side effects is to keep a side effects diary. Be as detailed as you can. Try to do this for several weeks and take the diary when you next see your doctor.

Include information about the following:

How often? – frequency

  • How often do you get symptoms?
  • Once or twice a week? Once every day, or 5-10 times a day etc?
  • Do they occur at night as well as during the day?

How long? – duration

  • How long do the symptoms last?
  • If you feel sick or get headaches, do they last for 20 minutes or for 3-4 hours, or for different times?
  • Is there a pattern to when they occur? Is this when you take your medications or at a regular time afterwards?

How bad? – severity

  • How bad are the symptoms?
  • Often it helps to rate them on a scale (from 1 for very minor to 10 for very severe).
  • A scale is a useful tool for describing anything that involves pain.
  • Recording how severe side effects are when they occur is better than recording them later.
  • Have you noticed anything that helps to reduce or stop them?

All this information can really help your doctor understand how difficult the side effects are.

Last updated: 1 January 2016.