Senior Health Home > Nitroglycerin Precautions and Warnings

Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any medical problems you may have, such as anemia or dehydration, before using nitroglycerin. Warnings and safety precautions with this medication also include potentially serious complications, such as dangerously low blood pressure or allergic reactions. Also, you may not be able to use this drug if you are pregnant or nursing.

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to using nitroglycerin (Minitran™, Nitro-Bid®, Nitro-Dur®, Nitrolingual®, NitroMist®, Nitrostat®, Rectiv™) if you have:
  • Anemia
  • Increased intracranial pressure (increased pressure within the skull)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Dehydration
  • Any allergies, including to foods, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also tell your healthcare provider about all other medications you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Precautions and Warnings With Nitroglycerin

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to using this angina medication include the following:
  • Nitroglycerin can sometimes cause dangerously low blood pressure (hypotension). Alcohol or certain other medications can make this worse (see Nitroglycerin Drug Interactions for more information). People who already have low blood pressure or who are dehydrated are particularly at risk for this complication.
  • Do not use nitroglycerin more frequently or at a higher dose than absolutely necessary. Using it too often can result in a tolerance to the drug, which means your body becomes accustomed to it and no longer responds to the medication.
  • For the long-acting nitroglycerin products (patches, ointment, or capsules) for chest pain, make sure you have at least a 10- to 14- hour break each day from the medication. If you use nitroglycerin around the clock, the drug will become completely ineffective within 24 hours. This does not apply to using nitroglycerin ointment for treating anal fissures.
  • For the short-acting nitroglycerin products (nitroglycerin tablets or spray), if you have used three doses within 15 minutes and your chest pain continues, it is time to seek immediate medical attention. You may be having a heart attack.
  • Nitroglycerin often causes headaches. If the headaches become intolerable, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • This medication does not work for all types of chest pain (angina). If your chest pain gets worse when you use nitroglycerin, let your healthcare provider know right away.
  • Some people may be allergic to nitroglycerin. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop any signs of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • Hives
    • Itching
    • Unexplained swelling
    • Difficulty breathing.
  • Nitroglycerin is a pregnancy Category C medication, which means that it may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are currently unknown (see Nitroglycerin and Pregnancy for more information).
  • It is unknown if nitroglycerin passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, check with your healthcare provider or your child's healthcare provider before using this medicine (see Nitroglycerin and Breastfeeding).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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