When it comes to medications for colds and allergies, there are two types that are commonly used: phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. Both of these work to clear congestion and alleviate other symptoms, but they do so in different ways. Phenylephrine is a direct-acting sympathomimetic agent, while pseudoephedrine is a decongestant. In general, phenylephrine is preferred for use in children, while pseudoephedrine is more commonly used in adults. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Learn more about the difference between these two medications in the below article.
What is Phenylephrine?
- Phenylephrine is a medication that is used to treat low blood pressure and relieve congestion from colds, hay fever, and allergies. It works by narrowing the blood vessels and decreasing the amount of blood that flows through them. Phenylephrine is available as an oral tablet, an oral solution, an injectable solution, and a nasal spray.
- Phenylephrine is also found in over-the-counter (OTC) cold and allergy medications, such as Sudafed PE. Phenylephrine should not be taken with high blood pressure medications or MAO inhibitors.
- Phenylephrine can cause side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Phenylephrine should be used with caution in people with heart conditions or thyroid disorders.
What is Pseudoephedrine?
- Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant drug that is commonly used to treat congestion and sinus infections. Pseudoephedrine is structurally similar to the ephedrine and acts as a mild central nervous system stimulant. Pseudoephedrine is commonly used in over-the-counter decongestants and cold medicines. Pseudoephedrine has also been used to illicitly manufacture methamphetamine.
- In the United States, Pseudoephedrine is regulated as a Schedule V Controlled Substance. Pseudoephedrine can cause side effects such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and dizziness.
- Pseudoephedrine can also interact with other medications such as MAO inhibitors and beta blockers. Pseudoephedrine should be used with caution in people with high blood pressure, heart conditions, or diabetes.
Difference between Phenylephrine and Pseudoephedrine
Phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine are both decongestants that are commonly used to relieve nasal congestion. Phenylephrine is a synthetic drug that acts as a direct agonist of alpha-adrenergic receptors, while pseudoephedrine is a natural drug that acts as an indirect agonist of these receptors. Phenylephrine is more effective than pseudoephedrine at reducing congestion, but it can also cause more side effects such as anxiety, headache, and high blood pressure. Pseudoephedrine is less effective than phenylephrine but is generally better tolerated by most people. Phenylephrine is available over the counter, while pseudoephedrine is only available by prescription.
Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant while phenylephrine is a nasal decongestant. They are both used to treat congestion, but pseudoephedrine can also be used to treat other issues such as allergies and asthma. Phenylephrine is not recommended for those with high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. Both medications come in many forms including tablets, capsules, liquids, and extended-release versions.