Nitrostat (Nitroglycerin) - Sublingual

What Is Nitrostat?

Nitrostat (nitroglycerin) is an orally administered prescription medication used to treat angina (chest pain) in adults 18 and older who have coronary artery disease (CAD; the constriction of the blood vessels that deliver blood to the heart).

Nitrostat belongs to a class of drugs called nitrates, or vasodilators. Vasodilators are drugs used to open blood vessels, thereby keeping a person's veins and arteries from contracting and lessening the potential for obstructed blood flow.

Nitrostat contains the active ingredient nitroglycerin and works to relax and widen the blood vessels, a process that increases blood flow to the heart.

Nitrostat, containing the active ingredient nitroglycerin, is available as a therapeutically equivalent, generic product. Other forms of nitroglycerin are available, such as a sublingual (under the tongue) spray or sublingual tablet.

Additional brand-name, sublingual versions of nitroglycerin exist too, such as Nitromist and Nitrolingual Pumpspray.

However, this article will focus on the brand-name Nitrostat, available in the form of sublingual tablets that slowly dissolve under the tongue.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Nitroglycerin

Brand Name(s): Nitrostat, Nitromist, Nitrolingual Pumpspray

Drug Availability: Prescription

Administration Route: Sublingual

Therapeutic Classification: Antianginal

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Nitroglycerin

Dosage Form(s): Sublingual tablets

What Is Nitrostat Used For?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Nitrostat to treat angina due to CAD in adults 18 and older. Healthcare providers typically prescribe this medication on an as-needed basis.

Angina is a type of chest pain that occurs when the heart doesn’t receive enough blood. Common symptoms associated with Nitrostat include pain, pressure, or discomfort in your chest.

How to Take Nitrostat

Nitrostat can be used to stop angina or to help prevent it. Be sure to follow your provider’s instructions.

To stop chest pain after it’s started, you’ll place one tablet under the tongue. Allow the tablet to dissolve slowly without swallowing. If the pain doesn’t go away within five minutes, you can place another tablet under the tongue.

No more than three tablets should be taken in a 15-minute time period. If the chest pain still doesn’t go away after taking three tablets, or if it feels different from your typical angina symptoms, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention.

To prevent chest pain, place one tablet under the tongue for five to 10 minutes prior to physical activity that may trigger an angina attack.

People who experience xerostomia (dry mouth) may take a small sip of water before putting the nitroglycerin tablet under the tongue. Doing so will help the tablet dissolve.

It’s best to take this medication while seated and be careful to stand up slowly. This helps lower the risk of falling from lightheadedness, a common side effect.


Nitrostat tablets should be kept in a secure, dry location and kept at room temperature (68 F to 77 F). Secondly, be sure to keep out of reach of children and pets.

Only store the tablets in the original glass bottle they come in. Make sure to screw the lid on tightly after each use. Be mindful of the drug’s expiration date (as printed on the bottle), and be sure to order your next refill before your supply expires.

Off-Label Uses

In some cases, healthcare providers may use Nitrostat tablets off-label to quickly treat very blood pressure episodes, such as hypertensive emergencies. A hypertensive emergency occurs when blood pressure rises so high that it causes damage to an organ such as the heart, kidneys, or brain.

How Long Does Nitrostat Take to Work?

Nitrostat should work to ease chest pain within five minutes of taking it.

If you still have symptoms, you can repeat one tablet five minutes later. You can take a maximum of three tablets in a 15-minute period. If you are still experiencing pain, or if the pain feels different than usual, seek immediate medical attention.

What Are the Side Effects of Nitrostat?

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at or 800-FDA-1088.

Like other medications, Nitrostat can cause side effects. Tell your healthcare provider about any side effects you experience while taking this medication.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Nitrostat include:

Of note, getting up slowly after sitting or lying down can help reduce the chance of lightheadedness and dizziness.

Severe Side Effects

Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • A sudden drop in blood pressure: Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, excessive sweating, pale appearance, or fainting 
  • Exfoliative dermatitis (a rare, but serious skin reaction): Red or discolored skin, scaling, crusting lesions, or swollen lymph nodes

Report Side Effects

Nitrostat may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Nitrostat Should I Take?

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The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For prevention or treatment of angina:
    • For oral dosage form (extended-release capsules):
      • Adults—2.5 to 6.5 milligrams (mg) 3 to 4 times a day. Your doctor may increase your dose as needed.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For sublingual dosage form (powder):
      • Adults—1 or 2 packets placed under the tongue at the first sign of an angina attack. 1 packet may be used every 5 minutes as needed, for up to 15 minutes. Do not take more than 3 packets in 15 minutes.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For sublingual dosage form (spray):
      • Adults—1 or 2 sprays on or under the tongue at the first sign of an chest pain. Sprays may be repeated every 5 minutes as needed. You must wait 5 minutes before administering a third spray if 2 sprays are used initially. Do not use more than 3 sprays in 15 minutes. To prevent angina from exercise or stress, use 1 or 2 sprays 5 to 10 minutes before the activity.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For sublingual dosage form (tablets):
      • Adults—1 tablet placed under the tongue or between the cheek and gum at the first sign of an angina attack. 1 tablet may be used every 5 minutes as needed, for up to 15 minutes. Do not take more than 3 tablets in 15 minutes. To prevent angina from exercise or stress, use 1 tablet 5 to 10 minutes before the activity.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.


The following modifications (changes) should be kept in mind when using Nitrostat:

Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using Nitrostat if you have a known allergy to it or its ingredients. Ask your healthcare provider for a complete list of the ingredients if you're unsure.

Pregnancy: Limited studies on the use of Nitrostat are insufficient to determine a drug-associated risk of major birth defects or miscarriage. 

Discuss with your healthcare provider if you plan to become pregnant or are pregnant. They will help you weigh the benefits and risks of Nitrostat during your pregnancy.

Breastfeeding: Nitrostat has not been studied in lactating people. It is not known if Nitrostat is present in human milk or if it has effects on milk production.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to breastfeed. Your healthcare provider will help you weigh the benefits and harms of taking penicillamine while nursing. They can also discuss the different ways available to feed your baby.

Older adults over 65: There is limited information about Nitrostat use in older adults to compare differences in responses between this age group and younger adults.

In general, dose selection for older adults should be conservative, typically starting at the low end of the dosing range to reflect the greater frequency of decreased liver, kidney, or heart function.

Children: There is limited effectiveness and safety information about Nitrostat in children. Nitrostat is approved for use in adults 18 and older.

Consumption adjustments: People who experience xerostomia may take a small sip of water before putting a tablet under their tongue, as this will help the tablet dissolve.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next dose at the regular time. Do not take two doses to make up for a missed dose.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Nitrostat?

While rare, an overdose of Nitrostat can result in the following:

Additionally, consuming excessive amounts of Nitrostat may lead to paralysis, coma, and even death.

If you or someone else takes too much Nitrostat, seek immediate medical attention.

What Happens If I Overdose on Nitrostat?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Nitrostat, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Nitrostat, call 911 immediately.


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If you will be taking this medicine for a long time, it is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Do not take avanafil (Stendra®), riociguat (Adempas®), sildenafil (Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), or vardenafil (Levitra®) while you are using this medicine. Using these medicines together may cause blurred vision, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting. If you are taking these medicines and you have an angina attack, you must go to the hospital right away.

This medicine may cause headaches. These headaches are a sign that the medicine is working. Do not stop using the medicine or change the time you use it in order to avoid the headaches. If you have severe pain, talk with your doctor.

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting may occur, especially when you get up quickly from a lying or sitting position. Getting up slowly may help. Also, lying down for a while may relieve dizziness or lightheadedness.

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting is also more likely to occur if you drink alcohol, stand for long periods of time, exercise, or if the weather is hot. While you are taking this medicine, be careful to limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Also, use extra care during exercise or hot weather or if you must stand for long periods of time.

Do not stop using this medicine without checking first with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are using before stopping it completely.

Blurred vision or dryness of the mouth may occur while using this medicine. Check with your doctor if this concerns you.

Serious skin reactions can occur with this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have cracks in the skin, feeling of warmth, loss of heat from the body, rash, red, swollen skin, redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest, or scaly skin while you are using this medicine.

Make sure any doctor or dentist who treats you knows that you are using this medicine. You may need to stop using this medicine several days before you have medical tests.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Nitrostat?

Nitrostat isn’t safe for everyone. You should not take Nitrostat if you:

In addition, healthcare providers typically won’t prescribe Nitrostat to people experiencing increased intracranial pressure (such as cerebral hemorrhage or a traumatic brain injury), shock, or certain circulation problems.

What Other Medications Interact With Nitrostat?

Before starting treatment, tell your healthcare provider about your medications, including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and vitamins or supplements.

Nitrostat can interact with certain medications. This section describes a few of the more common drug interactions, but others are possible:

  • You should not take Nitrostat with a PDE-5 Inhibitor such as Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), vardenafil, or an sGC-Stimulator (medications for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension), such as Adempas (riociguat) as these interactions can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure that can be life-threatening.
  • Nitrostat should not be taken with Ergomar (ergotamine) because this drug is known to cause angina, thus potentially making nitroglycerin less effective.

Consult your healthcare provider for a complete list of drug interactions.

What Medications Are Similar?

Besides Nitrostat (sublingual or “SL” nitroglycerin), other medications may be used to treat or prevent angina (chest pain), such as:

This is not a list of drugs recommended to take with Nitrostat. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I drink alcohol while taking Nitrostat?

    No, it’s not recommended. Drinking alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can raise the risk of severe side effects of Nitrostat, such as an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

  • I’ve taken Cialis recently, but now have chest pain. Is it safe to take Nitrostat?

    It depends on how recently. If it has been more than two days (48 hours) since your last dose of Cialis, it is okay to take Nitrostat now for chest pain, as directed by your provider.

    If it has been less than 48 hours, you should not take Nitrostat. Instead, call 911 or go to the emergency department right away.

  • Is it common to have a burning sensation in my mouth after taking Nitrostat?

    Yes, Nitrostat commonly causes a burning or tingling sensation in your mouth. It should go away within a few minutes.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Nitrostat?

An angina diagnosis can be scary. The good news is that people with well-controlled angina can live a normal life doing the things they enjoy. The only difference is that you’ll need to keep your bottle of Nitrostat nearby in case symptoms of angina arise.

To help control your angina, taking all your medications as prescribed is important. It’s also essential to follow your provider’s advice for managing other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

Taking Nitrostat is just one part of a comprehensive plan for reducing your risk of severe heart problems. Lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, are another key part of the plan.

However, strenuous physical activity may not be safe if you have heart disease. Your healthcare provider can advise you on the right fitness routines for you.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

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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.
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By Patricia Weiser, PharmD
Patricia Weiser, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist and freelance medical writer. She has more than 14 years of professional experience.