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Published on October 23, 2017

Q&A with Dr. Jackson-DeVose: Advice about OTC drugs and supplements for heart patients

Dr. Jackson-DeVoseAn over-the-counter (OTC) remedy might seem like a good solution when you feel a cold coming on. But you should be cautious about taking OTC products if you have a heart problem or high blood pressure. Aja Jackson-DeVose, DO, a family physician at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, explains why.

What should heart patients know when taking OTC cold medicines?

If you must take an OTC cold medicine, I would suggest that you stay away from those that provide multi-symptom relief. They usually contain decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, which can cause a mild bump in blood pressure and heart rate. Other cold products, such as the cough medicine dextromethorphan, are usually OK. If you have questions, ask your doctor or the pharmacist. They may give you some alternatives to those medications you should avoid.

What about herbs or other supplements?

Again, you have to be careful because some of them may make certain heart medicines less effective. For example, the herb St. John’s wort may interfere with warfarin, which many heart patients take to prevent blood clots. In other words, it could prevent that blood thinner from doing its job. Bottom line: Don’t try a new supplement unless you’ve gotten an OK from a physician. He or she can look to see if it might interact with any of your medicines. Your doctor might also be able to tell you if the supplement is even worth taking at all. We want our patients to be safe, and not waste their money.

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