Clonidine patch

Clonidine patches have a number of different uses including treatment of hot flushes and high blood pressure. Find out how to apply them safely and possible side effects.

What is clonidine?

Clonidine belongs to a group of medicines called vasodilators. Vasodilators widen the blood vessels to help the blood flow more easily. Clonidine is used for various reasons. For example to:

  • reduce hot flushes and night sweats for menopausal women
  • treat high blood pressure when other medicines may not work well
  • treat severe pain. 

Clonidine has also been used for migraine prevention but it is not generally recommended – other options are preferred. Read more about medicines to prevent migraine. 

Note: Clonidine is also available as tablets. Read more about clonidine tablets.

Dose 

Clonidine patches come in different strengths. The patch is usually replaced once a week.

  • The dose of clonidine will be different for different people depending on why it's being used and your response to treatment.
  • Your doctor may start you on a low dose and increase it slowly over a few weeks. 
  • It may take several weeks for the full beneficial effects to be seen.
  • Always apply clonidine patch exactly as your doctor has told you. It is important not to stop taking clonidine suddenly.

How to use clonidine patches

Ask your pharmacist to explain how to use your patch. Here is some guidance:

  • Apply the patch to a clean, dry area of skin on your upper outer arm or chest. Choose an area with little or no hair and free of scars, cuts, or irritation.
  • Don't try to trim or cut the adhesive patch to adjust the dosage, unless you have been advised to by your doctor.
  • The patch should stay in place even during showering, bathing, or swimming. If the patch becomes loose, cover it with the extra adhesive overlay provided. If a patch comes off, replace it with a new one as soon as possible.
  • Try to change your patch at the same time and day of the week. If you are more than 3 days late changing your patch, tell your doctor right away.
  • Each patch should be applied to a different area of skin to prevent skin irritation.
  • Remove the used patch when a new one is applied. 
  • After removing a used patch, fold it in half with the sticky sides together. Make sure you dispose of it out of the reach of children or pets.

Things to consider while you are taking clonidine

  • This medicine may make you sleepy. Avoid driving and doing other tasks or actions that call for you to be alert until you see how this medicine affects you. Drinking alcohol can make these symptoms worse. 
  • Clonidine can interact with some medications, herbal supplements and rongoā Māori, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting clonidine and before starting any new products.
  • Some procedures (eg, an MRI scan) may overheat the patch and burn your skin. Discuss this with your health professional before your procedure.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, think you may be pregnant or are planning to have a baby, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before taking this medicine.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, clonidine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects go away once your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Red or itchy skin where patch has been applied
  • Apply the patch to an area with no irritation.
  • Apply each dose to a different area of skin to prevent skin irritation.
  • Tell your doctor if this bothers you.
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy or tired
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded 
  • This is quite common when you start clonidine.
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • These effects put you at risk of falls, and injuries especially if you are an older person. Tell your doctor if you are concerned.
  • Do not drink alcohol – it makes these effects worse.
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low mood
  • Joint, muscle or bone aches and pains
  • This is quite common when you first start taking clonidine.
  • Tell your doctor if these bother you.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.

Learn more

The following links have more information about clonidine patches.

Clonidine patch New Zealand Formulary, Patient Information 
Catapres-TTS Medsafe Consumer Information, NZ

References

  1. Clonidine NZ Formulary, NZ
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland, Lena Cooke, BPharm (Hons), PG Cert in Pharmacy (endorsed in Medicines Management) and PG Dip in Clin Pharm (Dist) Last reviewed: 29 Jul 2022