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Back to Medicines A to Z. Propranolol belongs to a group of medicines called beta blockers. It's used to treat heart problems, help with anxiety and prevent migraines. Propranolol can help reduce your symptoms if you have too much thyroid hormone in your body thyrotoxicosis. You'll usually take it together with medicines to treat an overactive thyroid. This medicine is only available on prescription. It comes as tablets, capsules, or as a liquid to swallow. Propranolol can be taken by adults and children. But it is not officially approved for treating high blood pressure in children under 12 years old.

It is not suitable for everyone. To make sure it is safe for you, tell your doctor before starting propranolol if you have :. Tell your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding. If you are taking it once a day, your doctor may advise you to take your first dose before bedtime, because it can make you feel dizzy. After the first dose, if you do not feel dizzy, take propranolol in the morning. Keep taking propranolol even if you feel well. You will still be getting the benefits of the medicine.

If your child is under 12 years old and they need propranolol, your doctor will usually use your child's weight to work out the right dose. Propranolol does not usually upset your tummy so you can take it with or without food. It's best to do the same each day. Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water. If you find them difficult to swallow, some brands have a score line to help you break the tablet in half.

Check the information leaflet for your brand to see if you can do this. If you're taking propranolol as a liquid, it will come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the right dose. If you do not have one, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give you the right amount of medicine. If you forget to take a dose of propranolol, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is nearly time for your next dose.

In this case, just leave out the missed dose and take your next dose as normal. If you often forget doses, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine. An overdose of propranolol can slow down your heart rate and make it difficult to breathe. It can also cause dizziness and trembling. If you need to go to hospital, do not drive yourself — get someone else to drive you or call for an ambulance. Like all medicines, propranolol can cause side effects in some people but many people have no side effects or only minor ones.

These common side effects happen in more than 1 in people. They're usually mild and short lived. In rare cases, propranolol may cause a serious allergic reaction anaphylaxis. These are not all the side effects of propranolol. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet. If you're trying to get pregnant or you're already pregnant, talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking propranolol. There may be other medicines that are safer for you.

It is usually safe to take propranolol if you're breastfeeding. This is because only small amounts get into breast milk, which is not enough to cause any problems to your baby. However, speak to your doctor before taking propranolol if your baby was premature or has any health problems. There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements with propranolol.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal medicines, vitamins or supplements. Like other beta blockers, propranolol works by changing the way your body responds to some nerve impulses, including in the heart. It slows down your heart rate and makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.

It works differently if you're using it for anxiety. When you are anxious, your brain makes chemical messengers called adrenaline and noradrenaline. These make your heart rate faster and make you sweat or shake. Propranolol helps block the effects of these chemical messengers. This reduces the physical s of anxiety. We do not fully understand how propranolol prevents migraines.

It may work by relaxing the blood vessels involved, or by reducing activity in the "visual cortex". This is the part of the brain where migraines are believed to start. For heart conditions or high blood pressure — propranolol can take up to a week to reach its full effect. You may not feel any different but that does not mean it is not working. It's important to keep taking your medicine.

For migraines — it can take several weeks for propranolol to start making a real difference, so keep taking it. For heart conditions or high blood pressure — treatment is usually long term and may be for the rest of your life. For anxiety — propranolol is usually taken short term, to help with your physical symptoms. Speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking it for more than a few months. This will depend on your symptoms, whether it's a one-off or a recurring problem, how well propranolol works for you and whether you get side effects.

For migraines — treatment can last for several months or years, depending on how bad your symptoms are. If you're taking it for a heart condition, or to prevent migraines, it works best when you take it long term. If you're taking it for anxiety, there do not seem to be any lasting harmful effects if you take it for several months or years.

However, it's best to take propranolol only for as long as you need it. You'll need to have your blood pressure checked regularly if you're taking propranolol for a long time for migraines or anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you want to stop taking propranolol. If you're bothered by side effects, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine instead. Stopping propranolol suddenly may make your health problem worse. In addition, if you stop suddenly after taking it for a long time, you may get extra side effects as a reaction to stopping it.

These include an irregular heart rate, sweating and shaking. If you stop taking propranolol, it will take about 1 to 2 days for it to be completely out of your body but the side effects can last for up to 1 week. Propranolol works as well as other beta blockers for reducing blood pressure.

The main difference between propranolol and other beta blockers is that it does not just affect your heart. It can affect other parts of your body too, such as your lungs. There are lots of other medicines to lower your blood pressure and treat chest pain. They work in a different way to beta blockers and include:. Beta blockers are not usually the first choice treatment for high blood pressure.

The medicine your doctor prescribes depends on your age and ethnicity. If you're under 55, you'll usually be offered an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker. If you're 55 or older, or you're any age and of African Caribbean or black African origin, you'll usually be offered a calcium channel blocker.

Sometimes you may have to try other blood pressure-lowering medicines if you get side effects. Many people need to take a combination of different blood pressure-lowering tablets. Atenolol, metoprolol, timolol and nadolol are all beta blockers and they work well in preventing migraines.

However, most doctors prescribe propranolol. There are some other medicines that are known to prevent migraines but they are not officially approved in the UK. They include amitriptyline , sodium valproate and gabapentin and they may have different side effects. Topiramate can also be used to prevent migraines.

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