With cold and flu season in full swing, people with high blood pressure that is not controlled well or who have heart disease need to be careful with over-the-counter cold medicines, as they may cause a spike in blood pressure.
Many cold medicines contain decongestants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), both of which can raise blood pressure. Examples of decongestants are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Some NSAIDs are Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen).
“People with uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid taking oral decongestants,” Sondra DePalma, a physician assistant at UPMC Pinnacle in Pennsylvania, told American Heart Association News. “And for the general population or someone with low cardiovascular risk, they should use them with the guidance of a healthcare provider.”
Guidelines released last year by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology dealing with high blood pressure management say that decongestants should be used for as short a time as possible, and to try alternatives such as nasal saline or antihistamines.
Regarding NSAIDs, guidelines say to use Tylenol (acetaminophen) or topical NSAIDs as other options.
Healthcare professionals also say if your cold symptoms are mild or moderate, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Avoiding dehydration can help reduce body aches and may reduce the need for decongestants.