Pseudoephedrine Capsules and Tablets

Pseudoephedrine is a nasal decongestant that can provide temporary relief from a stuffy nose. Sudafed is a common brand name. It eases congestion by reducing swelling in your nasal cavities. People with high blood pressure, heart disease and certain other medical conditions should talk to a healthcare provider before taking this medication.


What is this medication?

PSEUDOEPHEDRINE (soo doe e FED rin) treats a runny or stuffy nose. It may also be used to treat sinus congestion and pressure. It works by decreasing swelling in the nose, making it easier to breathe. It belongs to a group of medications called decongestants.

This medicine may be used for other purposes; ask your health care provider or pharmacist if you have questions.

COMMON BRAND NAME(S): Contac Cold 12 Hour, Genaphed, NASAL Decongestant, Nexafed, Pseudo-Time, Sudafed, Sudafed Congestion, Sudafed Sinus Congestion, Sudogest, Zephrex-D


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What should I tell my care team before I take this medication?

They need to know if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Prostate trouble
  • Taken an MAOI like Carbex, Eldepryl, Marplan, Nardil, or Parnate in last 14 days
  • Thyroid disease
  • Trouble passing urine
  • An unusual or allergic reaction to pseudoephedrine, other medications, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • Pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • Breast-feeding

How should I use this medication?

Take this medication by mouth with a glass of water. Follow the directions on the package or prescription label. Take your medication at regular intervals. Do not take your medication more often than directed.

Talk to your care team about the use of this medication in children. While this medication may be prescribed for children as young as 6 years of age for selected conditions, precautions do apply.

Patients over 65 years old may have a stronger reaction and need a smaller dose.

Overdosage: If you think you have taken too much of this medicine contact a poison control center or emergency room at once.

NOTE: This medicine is only for you. Do not share this medicine with others.


What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, take only that dose. Do not take double or extra doses.

What may interact with this medication?

Do not take this medication with any of the following:

  • Bromocriptine
  • Ergot alkaloids like dihydroergotamine, ergonovine, ergotamine, methylergonovine
  • MAOIs like Carbex, Eldepryl, Marplan, Nardil, and Parnate
  • Stimulant medications for attention disorders, weight loss, or to stay awake

This medication may also interact with the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Atropine
  • Bretylium
  • Caffeine
  • Digoxin
  • Linezolid
  • Mecamylamine
  • Medications for blood pressure
  • Medications for depression, anxiety, or psychotic disturbances like fluoxetine, sertraline
  • Medications for enlarged prostate
  • Medications for sleep
  • Other medications for cold, cough, or allergy
  • Procarbazine
  • Reserpine
  • Some heart medications like metoprolol
  • St. John's Wort

This list may not describe all possible interactions. Give your health care provider a list of all the medicines, herbs, non-prescription drugs, or dietary supplements you use. Also tell them if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs. Some items may interact with your medicine.


What should I watch for while using this medication?

Tell your care team if your symptoms do not start to get better or if they get worse. See your care team if you are not better in 7 days or if you have a fever.

What side effects may I notice from receiving this medication?

Side effects that you should report to your care team as soon as possible:

  • Allergic reactions—skin rash, itching, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Heart palpitations—rapid, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Increase in blood pressure

Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your care team if they continue or are bothersome):

  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping

This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Where should I keep my medication?

Keep out of the reach of children.

This medication may cause accidental overdose and death if taken by other adults, children, or pets. Mix any unused medication with a substance like cat littler or coffee grounds. Then throw the medication away in a sealed container like a sealed bag or a coffee can with a lid. Do not use the medication after the expiration date.

Store at room temperature between 15 and 25 degrees C (59 and 77 degrees F). Protect from heat and moisture.

NOTE: This sheet is a summary. It may not cover all possible information. If you have questions about this medicine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider.

Additional Common Questions

Is Sudafed a decongestant?

Yes. Sudafed® is a nasal decongestant. It’s a common brand name for pseudoephedrine. Sudafed provides temporary relief from a stuffy nose so you can breathe more easily. Sudafed may help ease nasal congestion you feel when you have:

Pseudoephedrine vs. phenylephrine — what’s the difference?

Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant in many cold and flu medications. Phenylephrine is also marketed as a decongestant, but a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee found no scientific evidence that it works at the currently approved oral dose.

Most people buy products containing phenylephrine, like Sudafed PE®, because they’re available over the counter (OTC). You can buy them off the shelf, and you don’t need a prescription. Products containing pseudoephedrine, like Sudafed (without the PE) are also OTC but are sold behind the counter. This means you’ll have to ask a store employee for the product and show your photo ID to purchase it.

Why is pseudoephedrine behind the counter? People have used it to make methamphetamine, which is a type of amphetamine. Methamphetamine can be highly addictive, and misuse is dangerous. U.S. law requires stores to sell pseudoephedrine products behind the counter.

If you need a nasal decongestant, phenylephrine may disappoint you, according to the FDA advisory committee. But pseudoephedrine is typically effective. You should talk to a healthcare provider about the medications that are right for you based on your symptoms and medical history.

What does Sudafed do?

Sudafed relieves nasal congestion so it’s easier for you to breathe through your nose. It does this by reducing swelling in your nasal cavities. Specifically, it targets swollen blood vessels in the tissues of your nasal cavities.

You might wonder, why is there swelling in the first place? The answer has to do with your immune system and the way it clears out invaders like viruses and other germs. When your immune system detects something that doesn’t belong in your body, it sends out special immune cells to get rid of the invader. These cells communicate with one another to eliminate the problem, and in the process, trigger inflammation.

Inflammation is important for healing. But it can cause some uncomfortable symptoms, like a stuffy nose. It might feel hard to breathe through your nose when the membranes and blood vessels in your nasal cavities are inflamed. This is because inflammation along the walls of your nasal cavities shrinks the space inside those cavities. There’s less room for air to pass through or for mucus to move along. The result is that you feel totally plugged up.

Sudafed reduces the swelling in the blood vessels in your nasal cavities. This, in turn, opens up more space for air to flow in and out of your nose. Sudafed provides temporary symptom relief but doesn’t target the underlying cause. In other words, if you have a cold, Sudafed won’t clear up the infection. But it can help you feel better for a bit.

What are the cons of Sudafed?

Sudafed can raise your heart rate and your blood pressure. This means it may not be safe for people with high blood pressure or some forms of heart disease.

Like all medications, Sudafed can cause side effects ranging from mild to serious. It may also interact with other substances, including medications, herbal supplements and caffeine.

It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before taking Sudafed or any other medication. They’ll review your medical history with you and tell you if it’s safe to take Sudafed. They’ll also make sure Sudafed won’t interact with any other medications or supplements you’re taking.

Does Sudafed make you drowsy?

No, drowsiness isn’t a typical side effect of taking Sudafed. Difficulty sleeping is a possible side effect. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effects you notice.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

When your nose is all plugged up, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Medications like pseudoephedrine can ease nasal congestion to help you get through the day. Keep in mind that pseudoephedrine targets symptoms but not the underlying cause. So, it won’t make that cold go away any faster. It’ll just help you function while the virus runs its course.

It’s also important to remember that medications affect each person a little differently. And just because a medication is safe for someone else doesn’t mean it’s safe for you. So, before you take those pills you found in the back of the medicine cabinet, check with your healthcare provider. They’ll tell you if you can safely take pseudoephedrine based on your medical history and any other medications you’re taking.

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Note: Introduction and Additional Common Questions written and medically approved by Cleveland Clinic professionals.

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