Compare Sudafed vs. Afrin

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

Sudafed
(Pseudoephedrine)

Afrin
(Oxymetazoline)

Clears your sinuses. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) relieves stuffy nose, but it could keep you up at night. Don't forget your photo ID or you won't be able to buy it in the drugstore.Clears your sinuses. Afrin (Oxymetazoline) clears stuffy noses well, but don't use it for more than 3 days in a row or your congestion could get worse.
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
Button Group. All currently active
5.273672055427252Sudafed
Reviews for Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
82%
of people say Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) is worth it
45%
say it works well
6%
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Afrin (Oxymetazoline)
71%
11% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
46%
+1% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
12%
6% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
Side effects
SudafedAfrin

We haven’t found good data for Sudafed side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Sudafed »

We haven’t found good data for Afrin side effects.

FDA side effect reports for Afrin »
How it works
SudafedAfrin
Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) is a decongestant. It narrows blood vessels and reduces swelling in your nasal passages to make breathing easier.Afrin (Oxymetazoline) is a nasal decongestant. It reduces swelling in your nose to make breathing easier.
Type of medication
SudafedAfrin
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
Available as
SudafedAfrin
  • Pill
  • Extended release
  • Liquid
  • Nasal spray
Used for (click to learn more)
SudafedAfrin
Risk factors for serious side effects
SudafedAfrin
  • History of high blood pressure
  • History of heart problems
  • Age 65 years or older
  • History of seizures
  • Women of childbearing age
Detailed Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) risks & warnings »
  • Using Afrin (Oxymetazoline) for more than 3 days
  • Women of childbearing age
Detailed Afrin (Oxymetazoline) risks & warnings »
Pregnancy category
SudafedAfrin
NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

See the FDA package insert
NFDA pregnancy category (Unknown)

The FDA hasn’t classified this medicine’s effects on unborn babies. Talk with your doctor about this medicine if you’re pregnant or planning on it.

See the FDA package insert
Alcohol
No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
Food
No specific food-related info.No specific food-related info.
Kidneys and liver
No specific kidneys and liver-related info.No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
Sex
No specific sex-related info.No specific sex-related info.
Sleep
  • It can affect the quality of your sleep, so you can't take it too close to going to bed.
No specific sleep-related info.
Weight
No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
Upsides and benefits
SudafedAfrin
  • One of the best over-the-counter options to clear stuffy nose and help you breathe better.
  • Clears nasal congestion better than other decongestants like phenylephrine.
  • Can be helpful in relieving congestion-related headaches and pressure in your ears.
  • Available in regular and extended release forms.
  • It works right away and each dose provides relief for up to 12 hours.
  • Can use for nasal congestion caused by colds and allergies.
  • It only affects your nose, so there aren't too many other side effects.
  • Available as a nasal spray and a nasal mist.
Downsides and risks
SudafedAfrin
  • Pseudoephedrine (a decongestant) can make your heart race or make you feel anxious and restless.
  • It can affect the quality of your sleep, so you can't take it too close to going to bed.
  • Can raise blood pressure so check with your doctor before using it if you have high blood pressure or other heart conditions.
  • Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) isn't as effective after using it for more than 4 days straight.
  • Need to show a photo ID to buy it in the drugstore and there is a limit on how much you can buy each visit.
  • Afrin (Oxymetazoline), like all other sprays used for stuffy noses, can make your congestion worse if you use it for more than 3 or 4 days in a row (called rebound-congestion).
  • Can cause temporary stinging, burning, or dryness in your nose.
  • Can't be used for kids younger than 6 years old.
Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
SudafedAfrin
  • Starts working in 30 minutes.
  • You need to show an ID to buy Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) in the drugstore because it contains pseudoephedrine.
  • Follow age-specific dosing instructions on how much to take. Don't take more than recommended on the package.
  • Don't take Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) too close to bedtime since it can keep you awake.
  • Can cause an irregular or fast heartbeat, and can raise your blood pressure.
  • Talk to your doctor if your symptoms don't get better in 1 week.
  • Use 2 to 3 sprays in each nostril every 10 to 12 hours. Don't use Afrin (Oxymetazoline) more than two times a day.
  • Keep your head upright and don't tilt it back when spraying Afrin (Oxymetazoline) into your nose.
  • Breathe in with quick sniffs while spraying and wait a few minutes before blowing your nose.
  • Don't use Afrin (Oxymetazoline) for more than 3 days in a row since it can worsen your congestion after a few days of use.
Learn more
More about SudafedSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
More about AfrinSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert