Common infections like the common cold and flu can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including a cough. Though cough medicine won’t necessarily make the infection clear any faster, it can help soothe your symptoms. However, if you have a history of high blood pressure, not all cough medicines are safe to use.
Cough medicines that contain decongestants should be avoided if you have high blood pressure. However, there are other OTC medications that can help people with hypertension relieve a cough.
Is Cough Medicine Safe for People With High Blood Pressure?
Not all types of cough medicine are safe to use in people with high blood pressure. Some can increase blood pressure, which can be dangerous if you already have hypertension and other cardiovascular risk factors.
Risks of Cough Medicine and Hypertension
Decongestants (medicines that often contain ingredients like pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, phenylephrine, naphazoline, or oxymetazoline) work by narrowing blood vessels and allowing less fluid into the sinuses. This can dry up mucus and reduce cough. But constricting blood vessels can exacerbate high blood pressure or heart disease if you already have the condition.
Research suggests that using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can also increase blood pressure as well as the risk of having a heart attack. People with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors who used NSAIDs while sick were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack within a week of taking the medication than people who didn’t take NSAIDs.
What Cough Medicine Can I Take With High Blood Pressure?
Cough medicines designed specifically for people with high blood pressure (like Coricidin HBP) are one option. Some providers may also recommend guaifenesin (Mucinex) or dextromethorphan (Robitussin). However, avoid the “CF” and “D” varieties of both medications. And if you’re experiencing nasal congestion, saline nasal spray is a safe option. Specific OTC pain relievers are also safe to use, including acetaminophen and aspirin.
Cough Medicines to Avoid
If you have high blood pressure and a cough, avoid taking decongestants or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are examples of NSAIDs.
Other Safe Cough Remedies
Apart from medication, other remedies may help soothe your cough and related symptoms if you have high blood pressure.
Drinking plenty of clear fluids like water, juice, tea, and broth can help clear your lungs of phlegm and mucus.
Hot tea can be especially helpful at breaking up congestion and soothing cough.
Taking a hot shower or inhaling steam from a pot of hot water can thin out mucus and phlegm, making coughs more productive.
Honey has been shown to be effective at relieving cough in adults and children one year of age or older. Aim to take 1.5 teaspoons or 10 grams of honey before bedtime.
Using a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer will add moisture to your air and nasal passageways, which can help to soothe a cough.
Gargling with saltwater can help to pull fluids from the tissues in your throat, which can work to soothe a sore throat and cough.
Giving your body plenty of rest is one of the best ways to support your immune system and encourage recovery from illness.
When to See a Medical Provider
Though some cough medicines should be avoided when you have high blood pressure, there are several other options—including both OTC and home remedies—that can help to soothe your cough and related symptoms. If you’re unsure about whether a particular medication is safe to use when you have high blood pressure, contact your provider.
Also seek medical attention if you experience any of the following during the course of your illness:
- A high-grade fever that doesn’t go away on its own after 2-3 days
- Inability to hold down liquids
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Severe headache, sinus, or ear pain
Managing High Blood Pressure Online
With K Health, you can access virtual primary care and manage high blood pressure from home. With board-certified doctors available 24/7, you can schedule appointments when it’s convenient for you, and get the medications you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Acute Respiratory Infection and Use of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs on Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction: A Nationwide Case-Crossover Study. (2017.)
Common Cold. (2021.)
Taking medicine for a cold? Be mindful of your heart. (2019.)