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What is Pseudoephedrine


Updated April 09, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What is Pseudoephedrine?:

Pseudoephedrine is a medication used to treat congestion, sinus congestion and runny nose. Some doctors have prescribed pseudoephedrine to treat fluid in the ear, but the effectiveness of this has been shown to be poor. These symptoms may be caused by multiple conditions such as a cold or allergies. Pseudoephedrine only treats symptoms, it is not a cure for viral or bacterial illness.

Who Should Take Pseudoephedrine?:

You can take pseudoephedrine if you have a runny nose, congestion, or sinus congestion, if you are healthy and have never had an allergic reaction to pseudoephedrine or another medication that contains pseudoephedrine. If you have health problems or take other medications on a regular basis, or if you are are pregnant, you should check with your doctor and pharmacist before taking pseudoephedrine.

Who Should Not Take Pseudoephedrine?:

Pseudoephedrine should not be used by anyone who has had an allergic reaction to it in the past, or if you are taking any medications in a class called MAO inhibitors, such as: isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate). This medication should be used cautiously in people who have a history of high blood pressure, thyroid disease, heart disease, an enlarged prostate gland, or diabetes. Notify your doctor and pharmacist if you have any of these conditions. Newborns should not be given pseudoephedrine, nor should women who are breastfeeding.

How is Pseudoephedrine Taken?:

Pseudoephedrine comes in different forms, including tablets, extended-release tablets, and liquid. It is available over-the-counter in both children and adult formulas, so make sure that the formula you buy is age-appropriate. Extended-release tablets should never be cut, crushed or chewed. Because pseudoephedrine can cause you to become nervous or excited, it is best taken in the morning or afternoon so it doesn't interfere with sleep. Follow the directions on the bottle carefully before giving or taking pseudoephedrine, and contact your doctor or pharmacist with any questions.

What are the Side Effects of Pseudoephedrine?:

Common side effects include: restlessness, nausea, vomiting, weakness and headache. These symptoms should go away when you are done using this medication. If these symptoms are severe or if they last a long time, you should call your doctor. You should also call your doctor if you experience: nervousness; dizziness; fast, pounding or irregular heartbeat; stomach pain or difficulty breathing.

What are Other Names For Pseudoephedrine?:

Some brand names for pseudoephedrine include: Sudafed, Decofed, Drixoral, and Suphedrin.

Other Information About Psuedoephedrine:

While pseudoephedrine can be purchased without a prescription it is "behind-the-counter." This means that you will have to ask your pharmacist for the medication and will probably have to sign for it. This is because this medication has been implicated as an ingredient used to make illegal methamphetamines. Pseudoephedrine is used in many combination cold products. You should read the labels of all cold medications carefully before purchasing or using them.


Medline Plus. Pseudoephedrine. Accessed: March 18, 2010 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682619.html

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