By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE
Cold and Flu Medication Can Raise Blood Pressure
If you are one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from high blood pressure, you may unknowingly be putting yourself at risk every time you reach into your medicine cabinet for an over-the-counter cold or flu medication. That’s because most OTC cold and flu products contain decongestants, which can raise your blood pressure.
In fact, the American Heart Association recognizes that decongestants have been reported to increase blood pressure and even interfere with blood pressure medications.
In general, whether you take drugs or not for your cold, you’ll get better in about a week. Rest and liquids are probably the best treatment for a cold.
Decongestants can cause problems for people who have certain health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes or an overactive thyroid. Decongestants may also interact with some drugs, such as certain antidepressants and high blood pressure medications. Read the package carefully or ask your pharmacist to help you choose one.
Do not use OTC medicated nasal sprays (Afrin). Continued use will cause a “rebound effect”; your mucous membranes swell up more than before you used the spray.
Coughing is your body’s way of getting foreign substances and mucus out of your respiratory tract. Coughs are often useful, and you shouldn’t try to eliminate them. Sometimes, though, coughs are severe enough to impair breathing or prevent rest.
Water and other liquids, such as fruit juices, are probably the best cough syrups. They help soothe the throat and also moisten and thin mucus so it can be coughed up more easily.
You can make a simple and soothing cough syrup at home by mixing one part lemon juice with two parts honey. This can be used as often as needed. This can be given to children older than one year of age.
There are two types of cough medicine: expectorants and suppressants:
- Expectorants help thin the mucus and make it easier to cough mucus up when you have a productive cough. Look for expectorants containing guaifenesin, such as Robitussin and Vicks 44E.
Suppressants control or suppress the cough reflex and work best for a dry, hacking cough that keeps you awake. Look for suppressant medications containing dextromethorphan, such as Robitussin-DM or Vicks Dry Hacking Cough. Don’t suppress a productive cough too much (unless it is keeping you from getting rest).
Cough preparations can cause problems for people with certain health problems, such as asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure or an enlarged prostate. Cough preparations may also interact with some drugs, such as sedatives and certain antidepressants.
Cough suppressants can stifle breathing. Use them with caution if you give them to someone who is very old or frail or if you have chronic respiratory problems.
Antihistamines dry up nasal secretions and are commonly used to treat allergy symptoms and itching. Antihistamines can cause problems for some people with medical conditions, such as asthma, glaucoma, epilepsy or an enlarged prostate. Read the package carefully or ask your pharmacist to help you choose one that will not cause problems.