You’ve probably heard of Sudafed—but what is Sudafed PE? Like regular Sudafed, Sudafed PE is a decongestant. But its main active ingredient is different from the one in regular Sudafed. Read on to learn about Sudafed PE and how to use it safely to help relieve your nasal congestion and other symptoms.

Sudafed PE is used for short-term relief of nasal congestion from the common cold, sinusitis, upper respiratory allergies, and hay fever. The main active ingredient in Sudafed PE is phenylephrine. This drug relieves symptoms of congestion by narrowing the blood vessels in your nasal passages. This narrowing reduces the secretions within the nasal passages and helps you breathe more freely.

The main active ingredient of regular Sudafed, on the other hand, is called pseudoephedrine. This drug is tightly controlled, which is why Sudafed can only be purchased behind the counter at the drugstore. It’s not found on the shelf with other over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Some experts believe that pseudoephedrine is more effective than phenylephrine.

Sudafed PE is available as tablets and caplets for adults and liquid solutions for children. These forms are all taken by mouth. You can take Sudafed PE as the following versions:

  • Sudafed PE Congestion
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Cold
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Cough
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Mucus
  • Children’s Sudafed PE Nasal Decongestant
  • Children’s Sudafed PE Cold + Cough

Sudafed PE Congestion and Children’s Sudafed PE Nasal Decongestant contain only phenylephrine as an active ingredient. All other forms of Sudafed PE contain phenylephrine to treat congestion plus one or more other drugs to treat additional symptoms. These other versions of Sudafed PE may have additional side effects, interactions, or warnings caused by the other drugs they contain.

Below are dosage instructions for Sudafed PE. You can also find this information on the medication’s package.

Sudafed PE Congestion

Adults and children 12 years and older: Take one tablet every four hours. Do not take more than six tablets in 24 hours.

Children younger than 12 years: Ask a doctor before using the tablets for children younger than 12 years.

Children’s Sudafed PE Nasal Decongestant or Children’s Sudafed PE Cold + Cough

Children ages 6-11 years: Give 2 teaspoons (10 mL) every four hours. Do not give more than six doses in 24 hours.

Children ages 4-5 years: Give 1 teaspoon (5 mL) every four hours. Do not take more than six doses in 24 hours.

Children younger than 4 years: Do not use this medication for child younger than 4 years.

Other forms

The dosage information below applies to the following forms:

  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Cold
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Cough
  • Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Mucus

Adults and children 12 years and older: Take two caplets every four hours. Do not take more than 10 caplets in 24 hours.

Children younger than 12 years: Ask a doctor before using the caplets for children younger than 12 years.

Sudafed PE can cause some side effects. They may go away as your body gets used to the medication. But you should call your doctor if any of these side effects cause problems for you or if they don’t go away.

The more common side effects of Sudafed PE can include:

  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • sleeplessness

The rare but serious side effects of Sudafed PE can include:

  • weakness or tiredness
  • fainting or passing out
  • coma

Sudafed PE may interact with other medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if Sudafed PE interacts with any medications you currently take.

Do not take drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) with Sudafed PE. These drugs are used to treat depression and include:

  • linezolid
  • isocarboxazid
  • phenelzine
  • selegiline
  • tranylcypromine

And before you take Sudafed PE, be sure to tell your doctor if you take any tricyclic antidepressants, such as:

  • amitriptyline
  • amoxapine
  • clomipramine
  • desipramine
  • doxepin
  • imipramine
  • nortriptyline
  • protriptyline
  • trimipramine

Conditions of concern

If you have certain health conditions, you should avoid taking Sudafed PE. The drug can affect them. If you have any of the following conditions, talk with your doctor before you use Sudafed PE:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • abnormal blood pressure or heart rate
  • thyroid disease
  • prostate problems
  • trouble urinating

Other warnings

If your congestion is not relieved after taking Sudafed PE for 7-10 days, call your doctor.

Overdose warning

You should read the product labels carefully for all of the drugs that you take. This is because several over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications also contain phenylephrine, the main active ingredient in all forms of Sudafed PE. You should avoid taking more than one product that contains phenylephrine so that you don’t take too much of the drug. Common OTC drugs that contain phenylephrine include Advil Sinus Congestion & Pain and Neo-Synephrine. Do not take these drugs with Sudafed PE. If you have questions, feel free to call your doctor or pharmacist. They can help make sure you or your child doesn’t take more than one medication that contains phenylephrine.

If you take too much, symptoms of an overdose of Sudafed PE can include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • seizures

If you have further questions about Sudafed PE, talk with your doctor. Questions you might ask include:

  • What’s the safest medication to treat my symptoms?
  • Am I taking other medications that could interact with Sudafed PE?
  • Do I have any health problems that Sudafed PE could make worse?

There are many drug options available to treat nasal congestion and pressure. Your doctor can help you decide if Sudafed PE or another medication is a good choice for you.