Many cold medicines contain decongestants and other ingredients that could raise blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, speak with your doctor before taking any cold medicines.
This article explains the effects of cold medicines on high blood pressure. It also highlights what to look for on a drug label and which ingredients to avoid.
Are cold medicines safe for people with high blood pressure?
It is important for everyone — including healthy people — to monitor their blood pressure when taking new medications. If you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor before using cold medicines.
Which cold medicine ingredients do people with high blood pressure need to avoid?
Here is a list of common ingredients in cold medicines that could increase blood pressure:
A 2015 review of researchTrusted SourcePubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of HealthGo to source suggests that a combination of phenylephrine and paracetamol at a dose of 15 milligrams (mg) or more could increase blood pressure and decrease heart rate.
The researchers also shared that an oral dose of 45 mg of phenylephrine could increase blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure.
Ephedrine should notTrusted SourcePubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of HealthGo to source be taken by someone with hypertension. It increases the heartbeat rate and the force with which the heart beats. An overdose of ephedrine could also cause a rapid rise in blood pressure.
Evidence from 2018 suggests that pseudoephedrine can cause a slight increase in systolic blood pressure (SBP), but has no effect on diastolic blood pressure (DBP). SBP and DBP are the two figures on a blood pressure reading.
Older research from 2000Trusted SourcePubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of HealthGo to source found that indomethacin and other NSAIDs can affect blood pressure by inhibiting prostaglandin production. Prostaglandin is a naturally-occurring fat that helps coordinate the widening and narrowing of blood vessels.
Research in 2022Trusted SourceAHA/ASA Journals Peer reviewed journalGo to source suggests that a daily intake of 4 grams (g) of acetaminophen increases SBP in people with high blood pressure by 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Researchers studied 110 people with high blood pressure.
While short-term use of acetaminophen at the lowest effective dose may be safe for people with high blood pressure, long-term use of high doses should be avoided. According to the U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationTrusted SourceFood and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authorityGo to source, 4 g of acetaminophen is the maximum daily dose for adults. 4 g is equal to 8 extra strength pills of 500 mg each.
Which cold medicine ingredients are safe for people with high blood pressure?
Cold medicines are generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure. However, some may be safer than others.
The study from 2000Trusted SourcePubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of HealthGo to source notes that aspirin does not appear to raise blood pressure (BP) significantly, even in people with high blood pressure. The researchers also suggest that sulindac (Clinoril) may not elevate BP significantly. Sulindac is a type of NSAID that’s available by prescription.
A study from 2015Trusted SourceAHA/ASA Journals Peer reviewed journalGo to source also concluded that aspirin does not appear to raise blood pressure significantly. In fact, the researchers note that low dose aspirin taken to help prevent cardiovascular disease could have a beneficial effect on blood pressure.
What should someone with high blood pressure look for on a cold medicine label?
It helps to check drug labels for ingredients that may raise BP before buying any cold medicine.
These ingredients include:
Speak with your doctor before trying any new medications.
What are some other cold remedies that are safe for people with high blood pressure?
There are safe ways to relieve cold symptoms for people with high blood pressure. They include:
drinking lots of water
getting sufficient rest
using saline nasal sprays
taking a hot shower
If your symptoms persist, consult your doctor before taking any OTC medications.
Cold medicine could have effects on blood pressure if they contain certain ingredients. Effects include raising your BP, constricting your blood vessels, and raising your chances of having heart issues.
NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and decongestants in cold medicines are all examples that may affect BP.
Specific cold medicine ingredients to avoid if you have high blood pressure include pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, and ephedrine.
There are other ways to treat a cold if you have high blood pressure, including drinking lots of water and fluids, using lozenges, and getting sufficient rest.
Speak with your doctor before trying any new medications.
Dan Amankwah is a seasoned content writer who is passionate about all things health and wellness. He specializes in producing well-researched educational content on health conditions, medicines, and nutrition. Learn more about Dan’s work on LinkedIn.
Whelton, P. K., et al. (2017). 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APHA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association task force on clinical practice guidelines. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/HYP.0000000000000065
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