Is it safe to take cold medicine for high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, is very common, affecting about half of all American adults. People with high blood pressure or heart disease should know that common over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including cold remedies and decongestants, can raise blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, you should discuss alternatives to cold and cough medicines for people with high blood pressure with your healthcare provider.

This article will describe how over-the-counter medications, including cough suppressants, sinus medications, and decongestants, can cause side effects in people with high blood pressure. It will also discuss safer options for people with high blood pressure.

Cold medicines to avoid for high blood pressure

There are many different types of cold and flu medicines. Many of them combine decongestants, cough suppressants, and pain relievers (which also reduce fever). While these ingredients can help you feel better, they may make heart disease and high blood pressure worse.

If you have high blood pressure, you should always consult your healthcare provider before using OTC medications. There are two common ingredients you should pay particular attention to.


Decongestants work by constricting blood vessels. This helps with nasal congestion, which occurs when the blood vessels in the nose swell. Unfortunately, decongestants can also raise blood pressure.

People with high blood pressure should consult their healthcare provider before using decongestants, including those containing pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.

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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are common over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers. Aleve (naproxen sodium) and Advil and Motrin (ibuprofen) are both NSAIDs. While these are great for treating pain, they can raise blood pressure when taken by mouth.

They also increase the risk of heart attack (blocking blood flow to the heart muscle) and stroke (blocking blood flow to the brain or bleeding in the brain), so people with high blood pressure are advised not to use NSAIDs.

Find safe and effective cold medicine

It may be possible to find safe cold medicines for high blood pressure. However, this may require some extra work.

Discuss options with your healthcare provider

It’s best to start by asking your healthcare provider for their advice so you can prepare before you get sick with a cold or flu. They can give you a list of medications that can safely address symptoms such as nasal or sinus congestion, fever, pain, or cough.

Your healthcare provider can also tell you which medications to avoid and may suggest several ways you can deal with these symptoms without medication.

Learn to read drug labels

When you choose an over-the-counter drug, learn to read drug labels. The most important thing is to look at the active ingredients. These are the ingredients that affect your body the most. If you have high blood pressure, avoid medicines that contain the following active ingredients:

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  • Pseudoephedrine (decongestant): Brand names include Sudafed and Drixoral.
  • Phenylephrine (a decongestant): Brand names include Neo-Synephrine and Sudafed PE.
  • ibuprofen (an NSAID): Brand names include Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin
  • Naproxen (an NSAID): Brand names include Aleve and Naprosyn.

There are several other brands of each of these, and they may also be found in multi-symptom cold and flu medicines that combine different active ingredients.

Treat high blood pressure cold

For people with high blood pressure, there are safe alternatives to cold medicine. Discuss with your healthcare provider what is best for you. Here’s what you can consider:

Non-prescription drugs

These over-the-counter medications are safe for people with high blood pressure, but can relieve some cold symptoms:

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines can help clear congestion and are generally safer than decongestants for people with high blood pressure. They are more commonly used for allergies, but can also help relieve cold symptoms.
  • Tylenol: The active ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen, which is not associated with high blood pressure. Tylenol can help if you have aches, pains, or fever from a cold.
  • Guaifenesin: Found in Mucinex and other over-the-counter cold medicines, this ingredient is an expectorant that can help clear sinus and chest congestion.
  • Dextromethorphan: This is a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cough medicines.

other remedies

You can also manage cold symptoms with home remedies and natural remedies, including:

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  • Saline Nasal Spray to Clear Nasal Congestion
  • Hot showers and humidifiers for cough relief
  • honey reduces cough


People with high blood pressure need to be cautious when using over-the-counter cold medicines. Common ingredients in cold medicine, including decongestants and NSAIDs, can increase blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about safer cold treatments, including Tylenol, antihistamines, and natural remedies.

VigorTip words

Dealing with a cold can be painful. When you’re not feeling well, it can be difficult to remember which cold medicines are safe if you have an underlying medical condition. Talk to your healthcare provider ahead of time as you learn how to treat a cold, taking your high blood pressure and heart health into account.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the risks of taking over-the-counter cold medicine for high blood pressure?

    Many over-the-counter cold medicines contain decongestants and NSAIDs. Both drugs can raise blood pressure, so if you have high blood pressure, you should talk to your doctor before taking them.

  • Are topical decongestants safe for high blood pressure?

    Topical decongestants work directly in the nasal passages and are not absorbed into the bloodstream and spread throughout the body like oral decongestants.

    They may be safer because they stay in the nasal area, but you should still consult your healthcare provider before using them if you have high blood pressure.