Open Accessibility Menu

Over-the-Counter Medicines and High Blood Pressure: What You Need To Know

Over-the-Counter Medicines and High Blood Pressure: What You Need To Know

Does it seem like everyone is sick right now? Whether it’s COVID, flu, strep, or just a common cold, many people are relying on popular, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat their symptoms. However, some OTC medicines can raise your blood pressure or keep your prescription blood pressure medicines from working effectively, so if you have high blood pressure or take meds for it, be careful.

Read the label. Decongestants, such as those that contain pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, or phenylephrine can raise your blood pressure significantly. They narrow the blood vessels, which makes it harder for blood to flow and causes the increase in blood pressure. Over-the-counter drug labels include information about possible drug interactions and the active ingredients while prescription medications typically come with a sheet that explains how to take the drug safely.

Some OTC medications are high in sodium, which can also be harmful if you have high blood pressure. Look for active and inactive ingredients lists for words like “sodium” or “soda”. If you have high blood pressure, you shouldn’t consume more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. But, one dose of some OTC medicines can contain more than one day’s allowance.

Other substances to consider when keeping your blood pressure in check:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Antidepressants
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

If you take several different medicines, see more than one doctor, or have certain health conditions, you and your doctors need to be aware of all the medications you take. It is important to have a list of all the medicines you take with you at each doctor’s appointment. Make sure to include the frequency and dosage information and include vitamins, herbal, and dietary supplements.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take any new OTC medicine or supplement. Your pharmacist will be able to check and make sure that the medicine won’t interact with your blood pressure medicine and can suggest which OTC medicine may be right for you. You can also consider using a drug interaction checker to look up prescription or OTC drugs, and herbal supplements. The two most popular ones include one from Medscape that allows you to add your full drug regimen and will provide possible interactions, and one from WebMD.