Sudafed is a medication that is used for relieving sinus congestion and nasal congestion due to allergies or the common cold. It can also be used to promote nasal and sinus draining. Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend this medication "off-label" for treating other conditions. Common off-label uses of Sudafed include the treatment of fluid buildup in the ear, priapism, and stress urinary incontinence.
Sudafed® (pseudoephedrine hydrochloride) is a decongestant medication available without a prescription. Approved uses for Sudafed include:
- Relieving nasal congestion due to allergies (such as hay fever) or the common cold
- Relieving sinus congestion and pressure
- Promoting nasal and sinus draining.
(The information in this article applies to original Sudafed, now found behind the pharmacy counter. For information about uses of the reformulated Sudafed products that contain phenylephrine instead of pseudoephedrine, see Sudafed PE Uses.)
Sudafed is part of a class of drugs called decongestants. Specifically, it works by stimulating certain receptors known as alpha-adrenergic receptors. In the lining of the nose and sinuses, this action causes the blood vessels to constrict, allowing less fluid to leave the blood vessels and decreasing inflammation. This helps to relieve nasal and sinus congestion.
When used for allergy symptoms, the active ingredient in Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) seems to be especially useful when combined with an antihistamine.
Children's Sudafed Nasal Decongestant Grape Liquid is approved for use in children as young as four years old. Sudafed Nasal Decongestant tablets (the immediate-release tablets, not the extended-release ones) are approved for children as young as six years old. As with all cold medications, Sudafed should not be used in children under the age of four.