Overview of Sudafed PE for Cold and Flu

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Sudafed PE is an over-the-counter (OTC) nasal decongestant used to relieve congestion of the sinuses and upper respiratory tract. Decongestants work by narrowing the blood vessels of the nose and decreasing the swelling and inflammation of mucosal tissues. By doing, the air passages are opened and accumulated mucus is allowed to drain.

How Sudafed PE Differs From Sudafed

Sudafed PE is so-named because its active ingredient is different from that of regular Sudafed. Instead of pseudoephedrine, Sudafed PE contains phenylephrine. While pseudoephedrine is considered more effective as a decongestant, it is a far stronger amphetamine frequently used in the manufacture of the street drug methamphetamine (also known as "meth" or "crystal meth").

Because of this, Sudafed is no longer available over the counter; federal regulations dictate that it be obtained from behind the pharmacist or service counter.

Sudafed PE Uses

Sudafed PE is used to relieve stuffy nose and sinus pain and pressure caused by the following conditions:

Active Ingredient

Each Sudafed PE pill contains 10 milligrams of phenylephrine HCl. The pills are round, red, film-coated, and embossed with "44453" on one side.

Phenylephrine is part of a class of drugs known as vasopressors which work by reducing inflamed blood vessels in the nose and upper respiratory tract. While phenylephrine can help relieve congestion, it does not treat the underlying causes of the symptoms.

In addition to Sudafed PE, phenylephrine can be found in many generic OTC products, including children’s cough syrups, nose drops, and hemorrhoid preparations.

Do not take more than six doses within 24 hours. Children under 12 should not take Sudafed PE unless directed to do so by a doctor. If your symptoms do not improve within seven days or are accompanied by fever, stop taking Sudafed PE and call your doctor.

Side Effects

While Sudafed PE is effective in alleviating congestion, some people may experience side effects. Most are mild to moderate and tend to resolve on their own. The most common include:

  • Headaches
  • Mild upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Jitteriness
  • Cold feet (due to reduced blood circulation)

Contraindications and Considerations

Do not use Sudafed PE if you are taking a drug known as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or have done so in the past two weeks. MAOIs are used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and other mood disorders. They include:

  • Emsam (selegiline)
  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)
  • Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine)

Dosage and Directions

Adults and children over 12 can take one Sudafed PE pill every four hours, swallowed whole. You should not crush or chew the pill as this interferes with how rapidly the drug is absorbed into the system. Stop treatment and call your doctor if you experience irregular or fast heartbeat, vomiting, difficulty urinating, or severe shaking. In very rare instances, seizures, panic, confusion, and abnormal thoughts and behavior have been known to occur after taking Sudafed PE. Men with an enlarged prostate gland may also want to avoid Sudafed PE as it can cause urinary difficulty. If you have prostate hyperplasia or any problem with your prostate gland, speak with your doctor about alternative nasal decongestants.

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Article Sources

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  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Phenylephrine." MedlinePlus. Bethesda, Maryland; updated July 15, 2016.