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Using Nitroglycerin for Angina - Topic Overview

How do I use quick-acting nitroglycerin?

  • Sit or lie down to take your nitroglycerin. If you are driving, pull over and park the car. Taking nitroglycerin can lower your blood pressure, which could cause you to pass out if you are standing up.
  • For sudden episodes of angina, use nitroglycerin in a tablet or liquid spray form.
    • Place the under-the-tongue (sublingual) tablet under your tongue. Leave it there until it dissolves. If you accidentally swallow the tablet, take another. The medicine won't work if it is swallowed.
    • Place the between-cheek-and-gum (buccal) tablet between your cheek and gum. Leave it there until it dissolves. If you accidentally swallow the tablet, take another. The medicine won't work if it is swallowed.
    • Use the spray under your tongue or on top of your tongue. Push the spray canister button once. Close your mouth right away.
  • Take one tablet or spray dose. If after 5 minutes the chest pain is not better or gets worse, call911or other emergency services immediately.
  • After you call 911, continue to stay on the phone with the emergency operator. He or she will give you further instructions.
  • Regardless of what happens, you should let your doctor know that you had an episode of angina. If this is unusual for you, if your angina episodes are occurring more frequently or lasting longer, or if you need more medicine to control them, tell your doctor. Report any change in your angina symptoms (unstable angina) to your doctor.

Are there side effects or interactions with other drugs that I should be aware of?

Normal, temporary side effects of nitroglycerin include a warm or flushed feeling, headache, dizziness, or lightheadedness. You may also feel a burning sensation under your tongue.

Do not take the erection-enhancing medicine sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra) if you are taking nitroglycerin. Combining nitroglycerin with any of these medicines can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. If you develop chest pain and have taken one of these erection-enhancing medicines, be sure to tell your doctor so that you are not given nitroglycerin or another nitrate medicine.

Do not take the pulmonary hypertension medicine sildenafil (Revatio) if you are taking nitroglycerin or another nitrate medicine.

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