3 Medications to Fix Nasal Congestion for High Blood Pressure Sufferers

Woman with nasal congestion
Nasal Congestion and High Blood Pressure? No Problem!
Image: © Piotr Marcinski | Dreamstime.com
Help. I have a stuffy nose and nasal congestion but also have high blood pressure. What is a good decongestant for high blood pressure sufferers?
– Brian M

 

Brian,

Don’t worry, you don’t have to suffer with a stuffy nose just because you have high blood pressure. I’ll review 3 different options you can use and which one is the best.  By the end of this quick article, you will have your question answered and will be feeling better in no time!

 

What’s the Connection Between Nasal Congestion and High Blood Pressure?

When you have nasal congestion (from any cause) the blood vessels in your nose swell and enlarge, which constricts your nasal passage and makes it harder to breathe. This is the underlying problem with any stuffy nose.

Nasal congestion, by itself, can cause some problems with high blood pressure (special thanks to Mitch, one of my readers who shared this article).  But there is also a concern if certain medications, which treat nasal congestion, could also cause worsening blood pressure!

All decongestants try to constrict the blood vessels in your nose and sinuses, which shrinks the swelling and lets you breathe easier.

Certain medications, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Wal-Phed), do a great job constricting the blood vessels in your nose. But the effects aren’t only in the nose so this medication can also constrict your body’s blood vessels leading to high blood pressure. This problem is of particular concern if you already have high blood pressure.

So the usual advice is to pick a decongestant that doesn’t affect the body’s blood vessels.

But is that the BEST advice?

What Are the ACTUAL Effects of Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) on the Blood Pressure?

A meta-analysis (review of all the studies available on the subject) from 2005 tried to answer this question by reviewing the best 24 studies on the subject (1285 patients). They found that there was a statistically significant increase in systolic blood pressure (the top number) among patients taking Sudafed.

The effect: 0.99 mmHg increase in pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) users over controls (the range was from 0.08-1.90 mmHg).

Let me put that into perspective:

If you were not taking pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and your blood pressure was (140)/(90), then:

  • After pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) your blood pressure would be (140.99) / (90)
  • At its worst, your blood pressure would be (141.90) / (90)
  • At its best, your blood pressure would be (140.08) / (90)

 

Now, this is not me minimizing blood pressure or telling you never to worry. But I also want you to know although there is a statistically significant increase in blood pressure, you should know the actual effect too.

There is also a dose dependent relationship

The effects I reviewed above were the overall outcome from the meta-analysis. The same article also looked at pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) dose and blood pressure and found that, overall, the effects were lower with lower doses of Sudafed and higher with higher doses.

Immediate vs Sustained Release

The meta-analysis also showed that using the immediate release pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) to treat nasal congestion had a greater effect on blood pressure than did the sustained release medication.

Women vs. Men

The study also showed that the effect on blood pressure was greater in men than in women. Women’s blood pressure did not increase as much when using pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) to treat nasal congestion.

Now that I went through the summary evidence, let me get to the main point of the article: the 3 options you can use to treat nasal congestion if you have high blood pressure.

3 Medications to Treat Nasal Congestion with High Blood Pressure

Medication #1 – pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)

Yes, the first medication I would have you consider is to use pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). Why?

  1.  It is one of the best medications to treat high nasal congestion
  2. As I reviewed above, the effects are minimal
  3. It doesn’t affect blood pressure that often

 

That last point comes from this article which said Sudafed only increases blood pressure in about 3% of high blood pressure sufferers. Overall, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is a safe medication to use.

Now, even if I think this medication is overall safe to use, I recommend you put in place a few safeguards:

  1. Regularly monitor your blood pressure while on the medication
    • Everyone with high blood pressure should have a home blood pressure cuff to help keep track of your blood pressure
      • If you don’t own one, this is a good one I’ve used before.
      • Remember: the closer to the heart, the more accurate the reading. Arm cuffs >> wrist cuffs > finger cuffs > guessing
    • I would recommend checking blood pressure about 3 times a day while on Sudafed
    • If your blood pressure rises more than 5mmHg (above normal) then consider changing medications
  2. Take the lowest dose possible to help your symptoms
    • Remember, the study showed that higher doses of pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) cause greater effects!
    • So a lower dose will have less of an effect on your blood pressure
  3. Take a 12 or 24 hour formulation
    • You want to avoid the immediate release tablets (the 30mg tablets every 4 hours) because these will have the greatest effect on blood pressure.
    • The 12 hour or once a day pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) tablets should have a lesser effect.
  4. Take the tablets for the shortest duration possible
    • As soon as you can stop taking the tablets then stop.
    • I guess this is good advice for any medication

 

In most of my patients, this is the advice I give them and as long as they can follow all 4 steps, I think pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is a reasonable way to treat nasal congestion for high blood pressure sufferers.

Medication #2 – Oxymetazoline (Afrin)

Oxymetazoline (Afrin) is another fantastic medication that treats nasal congestion. What is better, it is a topical medication, so its effects are limited to the nose. So it is a GREAT choice to treat nasal congestion for high blood pressure sufferers!

But there is a catch.

Oxymetazoline (Afrin) reduces the swelling in the nose and sinus effectively, but if you use it for over 3 days, the nose “compensates” and can become stuffy again even if you are using the spray. Then, if you stop using the spray, the nose becomes ‘double stuffy’ and you will feel worse than before!

This is a condition called rhinitis medicamentosa and is what happens when your nose ‘becomes addicted’ to a nose spray.

For this reason, I place this as my second choice medication.

Please keep in mind that Oxymetazoline (Afrin) is safe to use as 1-2 sprays each nostril twice a day for 3 DAYS. Then stop for at least another 3 days before using it again. As long as you follow the package instructions, you will protect yourself against rhinitis medicamentosa and you can treat your nasal congestion without impacting your your blood pressure!

Medication #3 – Chlorpheniramine maleate (Coricidin HBP)

If you want to take a tablet that will improve your nasal congestion without affecting blood pressure, then you should pick a product with chlorpheniramine maleate (such as Coricidin HBP). Chlorpheniramine maleate is an older antihistamine that has some benefit for improving nasal congestion.

Its main benefit is that it does not affect blood pressure.

Its main drawback is that it is one of the lesser effective products to truly help nasal congestion.

Most nasal congestion from colds/viral infections or bacterial infections are not histamine driven. That means that chlorpheniramine maleate, as an antihistamine, is not as effective as the medications listed above. The main benefits come from some of the drying side effects of the medication.

Still, it is a safe tablet to treat nasal congestion for high blood pressure sufferers.

BONUS TIME!

If you read this far in the article, I included TWO MORE tips to help treat nasal congestion with high blood pressure. And better yet, either of these (or both of them) can be done in addition to any of the choices you made above.

Bonus #1 – Sinus rinse

If you’ve been reading my blog in the past, you know I often talk about sinus rinses (an example is their benefit in “How to Treat a Sinus Infection the Right Way”). You’ll also know I understand many people HATE sinus rinses.

To help with this, I wrote this article on some secrets on using a sinus rinse (and making it more comfortable). These are tips I have found through years of patient and personal feedback on how to make a sinus rinse better.

I recommend trying a sinus rinse because it helps improve nasal congestion. It doesn’t reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in the nose, but it will help remove any mucus stuck in your nose and sinus. And that will help you breathe better!

It is also NOT A MEDICATION, so it is safe to use with high blood pressure.

Bonus #2 – Breathe Right nasal strips

The second tip is to use breathe right nasal strips (or any nasal strip, really).

Here, you still have mucus in your nose and you still have swollen blood vessels causing nasal congestion. But by adding the breathe right nasal strip, you are opening up the passage wider.

This means that there is more room for you to breathe!

Again, this is NOT A MEDICATION, so it is safe to use as a high blood pressure sufferer!

Summary

I know we covered a lot for what was a seemingly simple question. Shoot, a simple Google search will show you tons or articles that give you the answer right away.

But my goal is not just to tell you to do something. Instead, I want you to know your options and pick them the way a doctor would pick them.

You now know there are 3 great choices to help fix your stuffy nose if you have high blood pressure:

  1. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
    • Sudafed raises blood pressure in about 3% of people, and an average of 0.99 mmHg.
    • Sudafed has a lesser blood pressure effect with lower doses
    • Sudafed raises blood pressure less with a sustained release form
    • Sudafed affects blood pressure less in women
  1. Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
    • Afrin is a topical medication, does not affect blood pressure
    • Afrin can only be used for 3 days in a row
    • Afrin works great for those 3 days!
  2. Chlorpheniramine maleate
    • Chlorpheniramine has a lesser benefit for nasal congestion
    • Chlorpheniramine is a tablet that does not affect blood pressure

 

And there are 2 bonus choices to help your nasal congestion as well:

  1. Sinus rinses
    • A sinus rinse is not a medication and does not affect blood pressure
    • A sinus rinse is better tolerated by following these secrets/tips
  2. Breathe Right nasal strips
    • Nasal strips are also not a medication and do not affect blood pressure
    • They work and they work well.

Questions

If you have questions, email me and I will be happy to help.

And if you enjoyed reading this article and would like more tips and tricks, follow me on Facebook:

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