What is ephedrine?

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Generic Name: Ephedrine Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.

Know the basics

What is ephedrine used for?

Ephedrine is commonly used for breathing problems, asthma, and nasal swelling/congestion caused by a cold or allergies.

Ephedrine belongs to a class of medications called sympathomimetics. It works like a naturally occurring substance (adrenaline) that your body makes when it thinks it is in danger. It is a central nervous system stimulant that increases your heart rate/blood pressure, narrows your bloodvessels (vasoconstriction), and opens up the lungs (bronchodilation).

It is rarely used because there are safer and more effective medications (e.g., albuterol, pseudoephedrine).

How should I take ephedrine?

If you are using the non-prescription product/supplement, read all directions on the product package before taking ephedrine. Take this product by mouth as directed. If you are uncertain about any of the information, consult your doctor or pharmacist. If your doctor has prescribed this medication, take it exactly as directed.

When used in high doses, ephedrine may cause serious side effects, including heart attack, seizure, and stroke. Do not take more than the recommended dose, and do not use ephedrine for longer than 7 days in a row unless directed by your doctor.

Rarely, abnormal drug-seeking behavior (addiction) is possible with ephedrine. Do not increase your dose, take it more frequently, or use it for a longer time than directed. Properly stop ephedrine when so directed.

When used for an extended time, ephedrine may not work as well. Talk with your doctor if ephedrine stops working well.

If you are using ephedrine for breathing problems and your condition does not improve in 1 hour or worsens, or if you think you may have a serious medical problem, seek immediate medical attention. If you have a cough that returns or lasts more than 7 days, or if you have a fever, rash, or severe headache, seek immediate medical attention. These could be signs of a serious medical condition.

How do I store ephedrine?

Ephedrine is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store ephedrine in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of ephedrine that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush ephedrine down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using ephedrine?

Before using ephedrine, tell your doctor if:

  • You are allergic to ephedrine.
  • You do not have a diagnosis of asthma.
  • You have a diagnosis of asthma but use prescription asthma medications.
  • If you have ever been hospitalized for asthma.
  • You are taking a monoamine oxidase (mao) inhibitor (eg, phenelzine) now or have taken an mao inhibitor in the last 14 days. If you do not know if your prescription drug contains an mao inhibitor, ask your health care provider before taking this product.
  • You have high blood pressure, heart disease, an irregular heartbeat, thyroid disease, diabetes, or difficulty in urination due to enlargement of the prostate gland or other severe heart problems.

Is it safe to take ephedrine during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

During pregnancy

 

There are no adequate studies in women for determining risk when using this ephedrine during pregnancy. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking this ephedrine. This ephedrine is pregnancy risk category C according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

  • A=No risk,
  • B=No risk in some studies,
  • C=There may be some risk,
  • D=Positive evidence of risk,
  • X=Contraindicated,
  • N=Unknown

During breast-feeding

Ephedrine is excreted into human milk. Breast-feeding is considered to be contraindicated by the manufacturer.

Know the side effects

What are the side effects of ephedrine?

Common side effects include nervousness, anxiety, dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, or trouble sleeping.

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with ephedrine?

Ephedrine may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

  • Beta-blockers (eg, propranolol), cocaine, indomethacin, methyldopa, MAO inhibitors (eg, phenelzine), linezolid, oxytocic medicines (eg, oxytocin), rauwolfia derivatives (eg, reserpine), or tricyclic antidepressants (eg, amitriptyline), or ergot alkaloids (eg, dihydroergotamine) because the actions and side effects of ephedrine may be increased.
  • Bromocriptine, catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors (eg, entacapone), or digoxin because the actions and side effects of these medicines may be increased.
  • Guanadrel, guanethidine, mecamylamine, methyldopa, or reserpine because its effectiveness may be decreased by ephedrine.

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if ephedrine may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

Does food or alcohol interact with ephedrine?

Ephedrine may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with ephedrine?

Ephedrine may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding.
  • If you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement.
  • If you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances.
  • If you have a history of heart problems, diabetes, glaucoma, an enlarged prostate or other prostate problems, adrenal gland problems, high blood pressure, seizures, stroke, blood vessel problems, an overactive thyroid, or severe asthma.

Understand the dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. You should ALWAYS consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.

What is the dose of ephedrine for an adult?

Usual Adult Dose for Adams-Stokes Syndrome

  • Oral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg orally every 3 to 4 hours;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;
  • Parenteral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg intramuscular, or subcutaneously every 3 to 4 hours.
    or 5 to 25 mg slow intravenous push (over at least 15 minutes). May repeat in 5 to 10 minutes, if necessary;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;

Usual Adult Dose for Asthma – Acute

  • Oral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg orally every 3 to 4 hours;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;
  • Parenteral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg intramuscular, or subcutaneously every 3 to 4 hours.
    or 5 to 25 mg slow intravenous push (over at least 15 minutes). May repeat in 5 to 10 minutes, if necessary;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;

Usual Adult Dose for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – Acute

  • Oral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg orally every 3 to 4 hours;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;
  • Parenteral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg intramuscular, or subcutaneously every 3 to 4 hours or 5 to 25 mg slow intravenous push (over at least 15 minutes). May repeat in 5 to 10 minutes, if necessary.
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses.

Usual Adult Dose for Hypotension

  • Oral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg orally every 3 to 4 hours;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;
  • Parenteral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg intramuscular, or subcutaneously every 3 to 4 hours.
    or 5 to 25 mg slow intravenous push (over at least 15 minutes). May repeat in 5 to 10 minutes, if necessary.
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses.

Usual Adult Dose for Myasthenia Gravis

  • Oral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg orally every 3 to 4 hours;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;
  • Parenteral:
  • initial dose: 25 to 50 mg intramuscular, or subcutaneously every 3 to 4 hours. Or 5 to 25 mg slow intravenous push (over at least 15 minutes). May repeat in 5 to 10 minutes, if necessary;
  • maximum dose: 150 mg per day in divided doses;

What is the dose of ephedrine for a child?

Usual Pediatric Dose for Adams-Stokes Syndrome

  • The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients less than 2 years. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • More than 2 years: 2 to 3 mg/kg/day orally, subcutaneously, or intramuscular divided into 4 to 6 doses.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Asthma – Acute

  • The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients less than 2 years. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • More than 2 years: 2 to 3 mg/kg/day orally, subcutaneously, or intramuscular divided into 4 to 6 doses.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – Acute

  • The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients less than 2 years. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • More than 2 years: 2 to 3 mg/kg/day orally, subcutaneously, or intramuscular divided into 4 to 6 doses.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Hypotension

  • The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients less than 2 years. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • More than 2 years: 2 to 3 mg/kg/day orally, subcutaneously, or intramuscular divided into 4 to 6 doses.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Myasthenia Gravis

  • The dosage has not been established in pediatric patients less than 2 years. It may be unsafe for your child. It is always important to fully understand the safety of the drug before using. Please consult with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
  • More than 2 years: 2 to 3 mg/kg/day orally, subcutaneously, or intramuscular divided into 4 to 6 doses.

How is ephedrine available?

Ephedrine is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

  • Capsule, Oral, as sulfate: 25 mg
  • Solution, Injection, as sulfate: 50 mg/mL (1 mL)

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of ephedrine, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

 

Sources

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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