Sudafed vs Mucinex – Uses, Side Effects, Differences

Sudafed Uses

It is a brand name and registered trademark for a decongestant that shrinks blood vessels in the nasal passages.

This drug is produced by McNeil Laboratories, a division of Johnson & Johnson –  one of the largest healthcare companies worldwide, that racks up approximately $123,600 in sales per minute.

The original formulation of this medicine contains the active ingredient pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, which works by narrowing the blood vessels to decrease congestion and swelling.

This reduces that stuffy sensation that accompanies blocked sinuses, flu, colds, and allergies for easier breathing through the nose. In addition, it helps drain fluid from the inner ears that may contribute to this congestion.

Interestingly, pseudoephedrine can be used illegally to produce methamphetamine, a white crystalline drug that some individuals use by smoking it, inhaling through the nose, or injecting it with a needle.

This medicine can be used either as topical or as an oral decongestant. Moreover, it is occasionally used to prevent ear blockage in people with ear pain caused by air travel or underwater diving, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Nevertheless, because of its stimulating properties, this topical nasal medicine is more likely to cause some side effects.

Side Effects

Frequent side effects of these medicines include:

  • excitability or restlessness (particularly in children);
  • nervousness;
  • headaches;
  • convulsions (seizures);
  • dizziness;
  • anxiety;
  • fear;
  • tremors;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • loss of appetite;
  • redness under the skin;
  • nausea;
  • itching;
  • skin rash;
  • hallucinations;
  • vomiting.

Serious side effects are rare and include:

  • tightness in the chest;
  • heart palpitations;
  • blurred or double vision;
  • sudden confusion, changes in vision;
  • a rapid heart rate.

Drug Interactions

Do not use this medicine if you are taking (or if you have used it in the past two weeks) a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (drugs for Parkinson’s disease, psychiatric conditions, or depression).

Other meds include – linezolid, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, methylene blue injection (used to treat abnormal blood pigment levels), selegiline, rasagiline, or tranylcypromine.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

It is not known precisely whether this medicine will harm an unborn baby, therefore, do not use it without your healthcare specialist’s advice if you are pregnant. Also, there is no research regarding its safe use by breastfeeding women.

More importantly, it may negatively interact with the following medicines:

  • atropine;
  • alcohol;
  • reserpine;
  • drugs for enlarged prostate;
  • mecamylamine;
  • caffeine;
  • St. John’s Wort;
  • bretylium;
  • drugs for high blood pressure;
  • linezolid;
  • other meds for cough, cold, or allergy;
  • digoxin;
  • drugs for insomnia;
  • procarbazine;
  • metoprolol (used for heart health).


It is the brand name of an expectorant drug, named – guaifenesin. It works by reducing the congestion in the throat and chest, thus, making it easier to cough out through the mouth.

Also, it has been acknowledged to help in the flow of respiratory tract secretions, allowing the sweeping movement of epithelial cell cilia to transport the loosened secretions upward toward the pharynx.

Guaifenesin is sold under a variety of brand names and comes as a capsule, a tablet, dissolving granules, an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, and a syrup.


It is used for the temporary relief of coughs caused by bronchitis, the common cold, and other types of breathing conditions.

It is occasionally used combined with dextromethorphan (a synthetic antitussive medication of the morphinan class), such as in Robitussin DM.

It is recommended to drink plenty of liquids (especially water) while taking this medicine since it helps loosen the mucus which is causing congestion and cough.


The recommended dose is 0,6 g to 1,2g per 12h hours up to a maximum of 2.4 g a day. The tablets should not be chewed, crushed, or broken and should be taken whole.

It may be taken without or with food. More importantly, people who use it should consult a doctor if signs and symptoms last more than a week.

Side Effects

Frequent side effects may include:

  • nausea;
  • vomiting;
  • stomach upset;
  • rash;
  • dizziness;
  • headache;
  • kidney stones.


If you are self-treating with this medicine, it is vital to read the package instructions meticulously before you start using this drug to be sure it is the correct medicine for you.

Some health conditions may make you more susceptible to the adverse effects of this medication.

Avoid eating large amounts of chocolate, drinking large amounts of beverages containing caffeine (such as – some teas, coffee, colas, or energy drinks), or taking nonprescription medicines that contain caffeine, because caffeine is a stimulant and can increase the adverse effects of this medicine.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to take this medicine.

Consult your healthcare professional before you start taking this medicine if you have inflammation of air passages (bronchitis), asthma, porphyria (a genetic condition caused by problems with how the human body makes heme), or a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages while taking this expectorant drug. Alcohol may increase the risk of severe side effects.

Bottom Line – Sudafed vs Mucinex

These medications have different active ingredients as well as a different mechanism of action. However, they can be taken together. Both have plenty of side effects.

Image credit – Shutterstock

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