How Cold Medicine Can Affect Your Pee

The flu and your prostate

Man blowing his nose
Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Flu season, like it or not, has spewed upon us again this winter.  It's going to be a bad winter as the current flu vaccine is not as effective against the most virulent strain as it has been in years past. That means a lot more people will get sick this winter.  That means a lot more people will be taking over the counter cold medicines to fight the symptoms of cold and flu.  Remember, other than Tamiflu, (oseltamivir phosphate), which is a prescription drug, there aren't any medications that treat the flu--they all just help fight the symptoms.

 The common medicines like pseudoephedrine work by constricting the muscles in the nasal passages and sinuses to help the sufferer breathe better.  The muscle fibers in the nose and sinuses are under the control of alpha adrenergic receptors.  When a man takes a cold medicine, these same muscle fibers contract in the prostate and narrow the urinary channel.

What can you do if you want relief from that stuffy, runny nose?  Stay away from pseudo ephedrine products as we talked about.  Nasal sprays such as afrin work pretty well at opening up the nasal passages without getting absorbed into the body.  Putting eucalyptus and camphor products such as vapo rub under your nose and on your chest is an old remedy that doesn't decongest you but tricks your brain into thinking you're breathing better.  Hot baths and steam humidifiers are cumbersome but can also provide symptomatic relief without shutting down the prostate.

What if you're taking a prostate medicine already, such as tamsulosin or silodosin?  You're waging a pharmaceutical war against yourself! These medicines are called alpha blockers.  Why?  Because they block the signaling to the smooth muscle in the prostate to keep the channel open.  Side effects of this class of medicine include stuffy and runny nose.

 Makes sense, now, huh?  You've just had your lesson in pharmacology and side effects.  Alpha agonists, like Sudafed, work directly against alpha blockers like tamsulosin.  

There are prostate medicines such as finasteride and dutasteride that don't interfere with cold medicine.  Also, if your prostate is sensitive to cold medicines, you should think about seeing a urologist to evaluate your prostate and potentially provide treatment options.  After all, most men have no problem taking cold medications and peeing so this may be a warning sign for you.

Hang in there during this nasty flu season.  If, by the time you've read this, and have already taken a cold remedy and can't pee, you need to call your physician or head into the emergency room.  You may need a catheter to drain your bladder until the effects wear off.  If you're reading this, have the flu and have trouble peeing already, lay off the Sudafed until you talk with your physician.

Continue Reading