Millions of people have high blood pressure. If you’re one of them, you’ll probably have a cold, allergies, or aches and pains at one time or another. Before you reach for help at the drug store, you need to know that some over-the-counter medicines may not be safe for you to take.\nIt’s good for everyone, whether you have high blood pressure or not, to know that over-the-counter doesn’t mean risk-free. You can learn how to stay safe by talking to your doctor and following a few simple rules.\nWhat Is High Blood Pressure?\nHigh blood pressure, also called hypertension, typically refers to blood pressure that is 140\/90 or above. Blood pressure of 180\/120 is considered severe hypertension.\nThe first number is your systolic blood pressure, which is your blood pressure when your heart beats while pumping blood. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure, which is your blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.\nFor reference, normal blood pressure for adults is around 120\/80, and this can increase when you’re excited, scared, or active, but should return to normal fairly quickly.\nRELATED:\u00a0Am I at Risk for High Blood Pressure?\nWhat Is the Difference Between OTC and\u00a0Prescription Medicines\nOver-the-counter (OTC) medicines are drugs you can buy without a prescription from your doctor. Most people have used OTC medicines to relieve a headache, soothe an upset stomach, or treat cold symptoms.\nPrescription medicines are drugs that you can only buy with a prescription from your doctor. Many people use them to treat temporary health problems \u2013 like taking an antibiotic for strep throat – or to treat an ongoing health condition like high blood pressure.\nIf your doctor thinks your blood pressure is high enough to need medicine, you’ll get a prescription. There are no FDA-approved OTC medicines for high blood pressure.\nOTC Medicines & High Blood Pressure\nSome OTC medicines can raise blood pressure, or make the medicines you’re already taking less effective. Many OTC cold and allergy medicines include decongestants, which can help relieve a stuffy nose but can also raise blood pressure. Some OTC medicines also have high amounts of sodium, which can make your blood pressure go up.\nLabels on OTC medicines list their ingredients, warnings, and other important facts that you need to know before you take them. Always read the labels and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you aren’t sure what something means.\nRemember: taking OTC medicines without taking to your doctor can put you at risk if your blood pressure is high. Never stop taking medicine for high blood pressure unless your doctor tells you to.\nWhat OTC Medications Should I Avoid with High Blood Pressure?\n\nYou should avoid any medication that increases your blood pressure or constricts your blood vessels. These are medications such as:\nNSAIDs, like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen\nDecongestants (frequently found in cough or cold medicine)\nMigraine medications\nWeight loss drugs\n\nRELATED:\u00a0Grapefruit and Medication: How to Stay Safe\nWhen Should I Talk to My Doctor?\nIf you are taking high blood pressure medication and need relief from common health problems, you should always talk to your doctor first, and keep these tips in mind:\n\nTell your doctor about all of the medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements you take. This can help your doctor figure out what is safe for you.\nIf your doctor says you can take OTC medicine, take it exactly as you are told. Taking more than the recommended dose can be very dangerous.\nRemember that vitamins, herbs, and supplements can also interact with the medicines you take. Just because something is labeled “natural” does not mean it is safe for you.\nDo not start taking something new without talking to your doctor.\nNever stop taking your blood pressure medicine without talking to your doctor.\n\nKnowing your blood pressure numbers and how to manage high blood pressure is an important part of a healthy life. Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484) to learn more.