Compare Sudafed vs. Phenylephrine

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

Sudafed
(Pseudoephedrine)

Sudafed Pe
(Phenylephrine)

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. Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) is a good medication for relieving stuffy nose. It doesn't work as well as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), but it has fewer side effects.
Find lowest prices
Powered by GoodRxSave on your next prescription. Be sure you’re getting the lowest price for your medication, even if you have insurance.
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 Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine)
44%
38% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
23%
22% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
10%
4% vs. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
Side effects
SudafedPhenylephrine

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

FDA side effect reports for Sudafed »

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

FDA side effect reports for Phenylephrine »
How it works
SudafedPhenylephrine
Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine) is a decongestant. It narrows blood vessels and reduces swelling in your nasal passages to make breathing easier.Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) is a decongestant. It narrows blood vessels and reduces swelling in your nasal passages to make breathing easier.
Type of medication
SudafedPhenylephrine
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
DecongestantPrescription or OTC
Available as
SudafedPhenylephrine
  • Pill
  • Extended release
  • Liquid
  • Pill
  • Nasal spray
  • Eye drops
  • Suppository
Used for (click to learn more)
SudafedPhenylephrine
Risk factors for serious side effects
SudafedPhenylephrine
  • 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 »
  • History of high blood pressure
  • Taking MAO inhibitors
  • History of heart problems
  • Age 65 years or older
  • Women of childbearing age
Detailed Sudafed Pe (Phenylephrine) risks & warnings »
Pregnancy category
SudafedPhenylephrine
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
CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

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.
  • Shouldn't use it before you want to sleep.
Weight
No specific weight-related info.No specific weight-related info.
Upsides and benefits
SudafedPhenylephrine
  • 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.
  • Works to clear nasal congestion and helps you breathe better.
  • Helpful in relieving congestion-related headaches.
  • Has fewer side effects than other decongestants like pseudoephedrine.
  • It doesn't raise your blood pressure and heart rate as much, or cause as much trouble falling asleep.
  • Doesn't give you rebound congestion (worse symptoms when you stop taking it) like nasal spray decongestants do.
Downsides and risks
SudafedPhenylephrine
  • 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.
  • Phenylephrine doesn't last as long as other decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
  • You shouldn't use it if you have high blood pressure.
  • Can make your heart race or make you feel anxious and restless.
  • Shouldn't use it before you want to sleep.
  • Not as effective after using it for 4 days in a row.
Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
SudafedPhenylephrine
  • 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.
  • Starts working in 30 minutes.
  • Phenylephrine can make you restless, so don't take it too close to bedtime.
  • It's in other cold and flu combination medicines. Read labels closely so you don't accidentally double up and take too much of it in a day.
  • Follow age-specific dosing instructions on how much to take.
  • Let your doctor know if your symptoms don't improve in a few days.
  • Starts working in 30 minutes.
Learn more
More about SudafedSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
More about PhenylephrineSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert