Can sudafed make you drowsy

Can sudafed make you drowsy DEFAULT

There are two main reasons cold medicines might make you drowsy. One is that one or more ingredients in the medicine may cause drowsiness. The second reason is that an ingredient in the cold medicine could be interacting with another medicine you take, which could cause drowsiness. First, let’s look at ingredients typically found in cold medicines.

Ingredients that May Cause Drowsiness

Not all labels say “drowsy” or “non-drowsy,” so we want to give you some more information that can help you find a non-drowsy cold medicine. It’s important to choose cold medicine with only the ingredients you need. This can help avoid unwanted side effects such as drowsiness. You should also know that, usually, medicines labeled “nighttime” are formulated to help you sleep.

Pain/fever relievers

Most cold and flu medicines sold in stores contain aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These ingredients serve a double duty. They all can relieve pain associated with cold and flu, like headaches and body aches, and they can help reduce a fever as well. None of these ingredients has sleep-inducing properties.


Since the main symptom of a cold is congestion in your nose and/or chest, cold medicines usually contain a decongestant ingredient. Examples include phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. These typically do not cause drowsiness and can make some people feel hyper or more alert.


Some cold medicines, especially those labeled for both allergies and colds, may have an antihistamine in them to help with a runny nose and postnasal drip. Antihistamines are known to cause drowsiness in some people. If the medicine does not say it’s an antihistamine, look for these ingredients to know for sure: diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine maleate and doxylamine succinate are all antihistamines.

Interactions with Other Medicines

If you have a known health condition or are taking other medications, check with your doctor before choosing a cold medicine from your local pharmacy or supermarket. You can also use one of the drug interaction checkers online, but it’s always safest to talk with your doctor who knows your health history.

To give you an idea of the problem combinations that exist, here are some examples: Decongestants and antihistamines may not mix well with drugs prescribed for heart disease or blood pressure problems. You will also want to check to make sure you’re not taking anything else with aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen in it. If you have asthma, emphysema or other lung disease, you’ll want to check with your doctor before taking anything with a cough suppressant or expectorant in it. If you are on any anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug, check with your doctor before trying any cough or cold medicine.

Combining certain meds can cause serious side effects, so this is even a good topic of discussion for you and your doctor before a cold or flu hits. Know which medications and ingredients are safe for you ahead of time and you’ll know exactly what to do if you get catch a cold or the flu.

BC® Powder Cold Medicines

BC® Cough & Cold targets cough and nasal congestion. It contains acetaminophen, dextromethorphan and phenylephrine, and should not make you feel sleepy.

BC® Sinus Pain & Congestion is for allergy, cold and sinus symptoms. It contains acetaminophen, phenylephrine and an antihistamine, chlorpheniramine maleate, so there’s a chance it could make you sleepy. Both cold medicines are in powder form and come in convenient stick packs you can slip in your pocket and take with you on the go, if needed.

The best cure for a cold is prevention, so we also recommend you read our blog post, “5 Easy Things You Can Do to Avoid Colds & Flu.”  


Sudafed Drug Profile and Side Effects

Sudafed is nasal decongestant used to treat congestion. Because it was being widely abused as a raw ingredient in methamphetamines, Sudafed is now located behind the counter, but it doesn't require a prescription. Simply ask your pharmacist, show a photo ID and sign upon purchase.

Sudafed PE, however, is sold on drugstore shelves. That's because Sudafed and Sudafed PE are made with different formulations. In 2006 the FDA passed a law that requires Sudafed to be sold behind the counter because its active ingredient is pseudoephedrine, which is used to manufacture illegal methamphetamines. Sudafed PE, however, is available over-the-counter. Its active ingredient is phenylephrine.

What Is Sudafed?

The active ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine, is used to alleviate nasal congestion caused by allergies, colds, and other upper respiratory illnesses. It can also be used to relieve sinus congestion and pressure caused by sinusitis, or a sinus infection.

Congestion occurs when blood vessels in the nasal passages and airways swell and expand, becoming inflamed. Sudafed works by shrinking the blood vessels back to their normal size to allow more airflow and mucus to drain. It is used to relieve symptoms, not to treat the causes of symptoms or to speed up recovery.

Adults and children over 12 years old should take two caplets every 4 to 6 hours, not to exceed four doses in 24 hours. Children ages 6 to 12 years old should take one caplet every 4 to 6 hours, not to exceed four doses in 24 hours. Children under 6 years should never take Sudafed unless directed to do so by a healthcare provider. Sudafed should also be swallowed whole. Do not crush or chew Sudafed.

Common Side Effects

  • Confusion
  • Nervous feeling
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A fast, pounding or irregular heartbeat
  • Nervousness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nasal congestion that lasts for more than seven days or is accompanied by a fever
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Prostate issues

Sudafed and other decongestants typically do not cause any side effects, and if side effects occur, they're usually mild. Still, it's important to know that side effects are possible. The chemical formulation of Sudafed is similar to adrenaline, which, in addition to acting as a natural decongestant, is also a stimulant. Taking a decongestant such as Sudafed can make a person feel jittery, and it can also impact a person's blood pressure, pulse and ability to fall asleep, although this isn't common. Other side effects of Sudafed are more serious. If you experience any of the following, contact your healthcare provider immediately:

Should Anyone Not Take Sudafed?

Sudafed and other decongestants are safe for most people, but there are some exceptions. Do not take Sudafed without your healthcare provider's permission if you have any of the following: Additionally, you should not use Sudafed if you are currently taking an MAOI or for the 2 weeks after you stop the use of an MAOI. If you have any questions or hesitations, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking this medication.

Keep Sudafed and all other medications, for that matter, out of reach of children. In the case of an overdose, contact Poison Control or visit an emergency room immediately.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Dobkin C, Nicosia N. The War on Drugs: Methamphetamine, Public Health, and Crime. American Economic Review. 2009;99(1):324-349. doi:10.1257/aer.99.1.324

  2. Eccles R. Substitution of phenylephrine for pseudoephedrine as a nasal decongeststant. An illogical way to control methamphetamine abuse. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2007;63(1):10–14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2006.02833.x

  3. Deckx L, Sutter AID, Guo L, Mir NA, Driel MLV. Nasal decongestants in monotherapy for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd009612.pub2

  4. Laccourreye O, Werner A, Giroud J-P, Couloigner V, Bonfils P, Bondon-Guitton E. Benefits, limits and danger of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as nasal decongestants. European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases. 2015;132(1):31-34. doi:10.1016/j.anorl.2014.11.001

Additional Reading
  • "Products/Sudafed Nasal Decongestant." Sudafed & Sudafed PE. 2005. Pfizer Inc. 22 Jan 2007.
  • NHS Choices.Decongestants. (2016, March 03).
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  3. Ram skull reference

Sudafed: What You Need to Know

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If you’re stuffed up and looking for relief, Sudafed is one medication that could help. Sudafed helps relieve nasal and sinus congestion and pressure due to the common cold, hay fever, or upper respiratory allergies.

Here’s what you need to know to use this drug safely to relieve your congestion.

About Sudafed

The main active ingredient in Sudafed is called pseudoephedrine (PSE). It’s a nasal decongestant. PSE relieves congestion by making the blood vessels in your nasal passages narrower. This opens up your nasal passages and allows your sinuses to drain. As a result, your nasal passages are clearer and you breathe more easily.

Most forms of Sudafed only contain pseudoephedrine. But one form, called Sudafed 12 Hour Pressure + Pain, also contains the active drug naproxen sodium. Any additional side effects, interactions, or warnings caused by naproxen sodium are not covered in this article.

Sudafed PE products don’t contain pseudoephedrine. Instead, they contain a different active ingredient called phenylephrine.


All forms of Sudafed are taken by mouth. Sudafed Congestion, Sudafed 12 Hour, Sudafed 24 Hour, and Sudafed 12 Hour Pressure + Pain come as caplets, tablets, or extended-release tablets. Children’s Sudafed comes in liquid form in grape and berry flavors.

Below are dosage instructions for the different kinds of Sudafed. You can also find this information on the medication’s package.

Sudafed Congestion

  • Adults and children 12 years and older: Take two tablets every four to six hours. Do not take more than eight tablets every 24 hours.
  • Children ages 6–11 years: Take one tablet every four to six hours. Do not take more than four tablets every 24 hours.
  • Children younger than 6 years: Do not use this medication for children younger than 6 years.

Sudafed 12 Hour

  • Adults and children 12 years and older. Take one tablet every 12 hours. Do not take more than two tablets every 24 hours. Do not crush or chew the caplets.
  • Children younger than 12 years. Do not use this medication for children younger than 12 years.

Sudafed 24 Hour

  • Adults and children 12 years and older. Take one tablet every 24 hours. Do not take more than one tablet every 24 hours. Do not crush or chew the tablets.
  • Children younger than 12 years. Do not use this medication for children younger than 12 years.

Sudafed 12 Hour Pressure + Pain

  • Adults and children 12 years and older. Take one caplet every 12 hours. Do not take more than two caplets every 24 hours. Do not crush or chew the caplets.
  • Children younger than 12 years. Do not use this medication for children younger than 12 years

Children’s Sudafed

  • Children ages 6–11 years. Give 2 teaspoons every four to six hours. Do not give more than four doses every 24 hours.
  • Children ages 4–5 years. Give 1 teaspoon every four to six hours. Do not give more than four doses every 24 hours.
  • Children younger than 4 years. Do not use this medication for children younger than 4 years.

Side effects

Like most drugs, Sudafed may cause side effects. Some of these side effects may go away as your body gets used to the medication. If any of these side effects are a problem for you or if they don’t go away, call your doctor.

More common side effects

The more common side effects of Sudafed can include:

  • weakness or dizziness
  • restlessness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • insomnia

Serious side effects

The rare but serious side effects of Sudafed can include:

  • very fast heart rate
  • trouble breathing
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • psychosis (mental changes that cause you to lose touch with reality)
  • heart problems, such as chest pain, increased blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat
  • heart attack or stroke

Drug interactions

Sudafed may interact with other medications you’re taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor to see if Sudafed interacts with any medications you’re currently taking.

You should not take the following drugs with Sudafed:

  • dihydroergotamine
  • rasagiline
  • selegiline

Also, before taking Sudafed, be sure to tell your doctor if you take any of the following medications:

  • blood pressure or heart medications
  • asthma medications
  • migraine medications
  • antidepressants
  • over-the-counter herbal remedies, such as St. John’s Wort


There are a few warnings you should keep in mind if you take Sudafed.

Conditions of concern

Sudafed is safe for many people. However, you should avoid it if you have certain health conditions, which may get worse if you take Sudafed. Before using Sudafed, be sure to tell your doctor if you have:

Other warnings

There are concerns of misuse with Sudafed because it can be used to make illegal methamphetamine, a very addictive stimulant. However, Sudafed itself is not addictive.

There are also no warnings against drinking alcohol while taking Sudafed. However, in rare cases, alcohol may increase certain side effects of Sudafed, such as dizziness.

If you’ve taken Sudafed for a week and your symptoms don’t go away or get better, call your doctor. Also call if you have a high fever.

In case of overdose

Symptoms of an overdose of Sudafed can include:

  • fast heart rate
  • dizziness
  • anxiety or restlessness
  • increased blood pressure (likely without symptoms)
  • seizures

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Prescription status and restrictions

In most states, Sudafed is available over the counter (OTC). However, some locations in the United States require a prescription. The states of Oregon and Mississippi, as well as some cities in Missouri and Tennessee, all require a prescription for Sudafed.

The reason for these prescription requirements is that PSE, the main ingredient in Sudafed, is used to make illegal methamphetamine. Also called crystal meth, methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug. These requirements help prevent people from buying Sudafed to make this drug.

Efforts to prevent people from using PSE to make methamphetamine also restrict the sale of Sudafed. A piece of legislation called the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) was passed in 2006. It requires you to present a photo ID to buy products that contain pseudoephedrine. It also limits the amount of these products you can buy.

In addition, it requires pharmacies to sell any products that contain PSE behind the counter. That means you can’t buy Sudafed on the shelf at your local drugstore like other OTC medications. You have to get Sudafed from the pharmacy. You also have to show your photo ID to the pharmacist, who is required to track your purchases of products that contain PSE.





3.9/ 5 average rating with 1740 reviewsforSudafed

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Clears your sinuses.

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Our bottom line

Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) relieves stuffy nose, but it could keep you up at night. Don't forget your photo ID or you won't be able to buy it in the drugstore.

Quick facts about Sudafed

  • Drug class: Respiratory
  • Rx status: Prescription or OTC
  • Generic status: Lower-cost generic available (pseudoephedrine)


  • One of the best over-the-counter options to clear stuffy nose and help you breathe better.
  • Clears nasal congestion better than other decongestants like phenylephrine.
  • Can be helpful in relieving congestion-related headaches and pressure in your ears.
  • Available in regular and extended release forms.


  • Pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) can make your heart race or make you feel anxious and restless.
  • It can affect the quality of your sleep, so you can't take it too close to going to bed.
  • Can raise blood pressure so check with your doctor before using it if you have high blood pressure or other heart conditions.
  • Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) isn't as effective after using it for more than 4 days straight.
  • Need to show a photo ID to buy it in the drugstore and there is a limit on how much you can buy each visit.

How it works

Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) is a decongestant. It narrows blood vessels and reduces swelling in your nasal passages to make breathing easier.

Quick facts about Sudafed

  • Drug class: Respiratory
  • Rx status: Prescription or OTC
  • Generic status: Lower-cost generic available (pseudoephedrine)

Used for

Dosage forms

  • Pill
  • Extended release
  • Liquid


Prices and coupons

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Prices and coupons for 30 (30mg) tablets of pseudoephedrine near

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What to expect when you take Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) for Nasal decongestant

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  • First few hoursHours

    First few daysDays

    First few weeksWeeks

    First few monthsMonths

  • Effectiveness
  • Full effects

  • First few hoursHours

    First few daysDays

    First few weeksWeeks

    First few monthsMonths

  • Possible side effects

It can take time for a drug to start working, or for some side effects to go away.

Source: FDA product label and Iodine pharmacists
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Side effect rates for Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)

These are side effects of Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)reported to the FDA by people taking it, and by doctors and pharmacists.
0 reports
  • Source: FDA adverse event database
  • We searched the FDA database for all the names this medicine may be known by:

    › pseudoephedrine

    › Sudafed

  • Reports are often from people taking more than one drug. Their side effects might not be due to Sudafed at all.
  • Percentages only tell you how common an issue is for people who actually make the effort to report side effects to the FDA, not for everyone.
  • These reports are not confirmed or validated by doctors or the FDA.

Are you experiencing side effects you want to report to the FDA?Report a side effect

Risks and Warnings for Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)

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    • Higher risk if:
    • › History of high blood pressure

    Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) works by narrowing blood vessels. It can cause or worsen high blood pressure. If you feel dizzy or have a headache that won't go away, Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) might not be the best option for you.

Common concerns from people taking Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)

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The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

See the FDA package insertSee pregnancy safe medications

Tip:Always talk with your doctor before you take any medication while pregnant.
FDA pregnancy category for Sudafed


  • It can affect the quality of your sleep, so you can't take it too close to going to bed.

You can sudafed drowsy make

SUDAFED® Sinus Congestion

Do not use if you are now taking a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) (certain drugs for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions, or Parkinson's disease), or for 2 weeks after stopping the MAOI drug. If you do not know if your prescription drug contains an MAOI, ask a doctor or pharmacist before taking this product.

Ask a doctor before use if you have

  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • thyroid disease
  • diabetes
  • trouble urinating due to an enlarged prostate gland

When using this product do not exceed recommended dose

Stop use and ask a doctor if

  • nervousness, dizziness, or sleeplessness occur
  • symptoms do not improve within 7 days or occur with a fever

If pregnant or breast-feeding, ask a health professional before use.

Keep out of reach of children. In case of overdose, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away. (1-800-222-1222)

Dangers of Sudafed \u0026 Meth


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