Skip to Content

Can you mix cold medicine with a drink?

Mixing cold medicine with alcoholic drinks is generally not recommended. Cold medicines often contain active ingredients like dextromethorphan, acetaminophen, guaifenesin, or antihistamines that can interact with alcohol in potentially dangerous ways. However, some cold medicines may be safer to mix with modest amounts of alcohol than others.

Can you mix NyQuil with alcohol?

NyQuil is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter cold medicines. The active ingredients in NyQuil include acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine succinate, and phenylephrine. Here’s a breakdown of how these ingredients interact with alcohol:

  • Acetaminophen – High amounts of acetaminophen mixed with alcohol can cause liver damage or failure. Even moderate drinking should be avoided when taking acetaminophen-containing cold medicines.
  • Dextromethorphan – This cough suppressant can cause increased drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired motor skills when mixed with alcohol. It may also increase the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
  • Doxylamine succinate – An antihistamine that causes drowsiness. Mixing doxylamine succinate with alcohol can amplify these effects and severely impair coordination.
  • Phenylephrine – A decongestant that can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. Combining it with alcohol can increase the risk of cardiovascular side effects.

Because of the multiple active ingredients that interact with alcohol, it’s best to avoid drinking any amount of alcohol if you take NyQuil or other similar cold medicines containing this combination of drugs.

Is DayQuil safe to mix with alcohol?

DayQuil is another common over-the-counter cold medicine intended for daytime use. It contains the following active ingredients:

  • Acetaminophen – Should not be mixed with alcohol for the reasons described above.
  • Dextromethorphan – Also interacts negatively with alcohol.
  • Phenylephrine – Can increase heart rate/blood pressure when mixed with alcohol.

While DayQuil does not contain antihistamines like NyQuil does, it still contains multiple ingredients that may cause adverse effects if mixed with alcohol. It’s better to refrain from drinking while taking DayQuil.

Is Theraflu safe with alcohol?

Theraflu contains the active ingredients acetaminophen, pheniramine, and phenylephrine. Here’s how these may interact with alcohol:

  • Acetaminophen – Avoid mixing with alcohol due to risk of liver toxicity.
  • Pheniramine – An antihistamine that can amplify the drowsiness caused by alcohol.
  • Phenylephrine – May exacerbate cardiovascular side effects of alcohol.

Theraflu also contains dextromethorphan in some of its formulations, which as described above can interact negatively with alcohol. Overall, it’s not recommended to drink alcohol while taking Theraflu.

What about Robitussin and alcohol?

Robitussin products contain the cough suppressant dextromethorphan as their primary active ingredient. As explained earlier, dextromethorphan can enhance the intoxicating effects of alcohol and cause increased drowsiness and impaired coordination if the two are mixed.

Some Robitussin formulations also contain guaifenesin as an expectorant. There are no known major interactions between guaifenesin and alcohol. However, alcohol can worsen the drowsiness sometimes caused by guaifenesin, so caution is still advised.

Is Mucinex safe to use with alcohol?

Mucinex tablets and liquids contain guaifenesin as the sole active ingredient. As stated above, guaifenesin does not have any severe interactions with alcohol, although it can increase drowsiness. Of all the common over-the-counter cold medicines, Mucinex may be one of the safer options to use if you plan to drink modest amounts of alcohol. However, it’s still smart to limit alcohol intake as much as possible when taking any cold medicine.

Can you drink alcohol while taking Claritin-D or Zyrtec-D?

Claritin-D and Zyrtec-D contain a decongestant (pseudoephedrine) combined with an antihistamine (loratadine for Claritin-D, cetirizine for Zyrtec-D). Pseudoephedrine does not interact significantly with alcohol. However, the antihistamine components can amplify the sedative effects of alcohol. It’s best to moderate alcohol consumption when taking these medicines.

Are prescription cough syrups with codeine safe with alcohol?

Codeine is an opioid cough suppressant that can be extremely dangerous if mixed with alcohol. Combining codeine cough syrup with alcohol significantly increases the risks of:

  • Excessive sedation
  • Severe respiratory depression
  • Overdose
  • Death

Never mix prescription cough syrups containing codeine or other opioids like hydrocodone with alcohol. Doing so can have fatal consequences.

Can you drink when taking cough drops or lozenges?

Most cough drops and throat lozenges do not contain active drug ingredients. They soothe cough and throat irritation through other means like menthol, honey, eucalyptus oil, etc. These cough drops are generally safe to use even when drinking alcohol in moderation. However, some numbing cough drops do contain anesthetic ingredients like benzocaine or phenol. Large amounts of alcohol could potentially exacerbate their numbing effects in the mouth and throat, so caution is warranted.

What about mixing cold medicine and beer, wine, or liquor?

The safety issues with combining cold medicine and alcohol do not depend significantly on the type of alcoholic beverage. Beer, wine, and spirits all contain varying amounts of ethanol alcohol, which interacts with active ingredients like dextromethorphan, acetaminophen, antihistamines, etc. Regardless of whether one drinks beer, wine, or liquor, it’s best to avoid alcohol completely when taking common cold medications.

Can you drink alcohol after taking cold medicine?

After taking most cold medicines, it’s recommended to wait several hours before consuming any alcohol. This gives time for the medication to take effect and clears it from the peak levels in your system. However, alcohol should still be avoided altogether if you need to take another dose of cold medicine within the next 4-6 hours.

For cold medicines containing sedating ingredients like antihistamines, wait at least 6 hours or longer before drinking alcohol to avoid additive drowsiness effects. Avoid alcohol for 3-4 hours after taking decongestant/stimulant ingredients like pseudoephedrine.

Does cold medicine still work if you drink alcohol?

Alcohol does not completely prevent cold medications from working when taken together. However, it can reduce the efficacy of some active ingredients:

  • Alcohol may lower absorption of decongestants like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine, making them less effective.
  • The pain/fever relieving effects of acetaminophen may be diminished when combined with alcohol.
  • The drowsiness caused by antihistamines may overpower the cough suppressing action of dextromethorphan when mixed with alcohol.

While cold medicine can still provide some benefit if you drink alcohol, its effects will be reduced. It’s better to refrain from alcohol completely to get the full effectiveness from cold medications.

What are the effects of mixing alcohol and cold medicine?

Cold medicine ingredient Effects when mixed with alcohol
Dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) Increased intoxication, drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination
Antihistamines Excessive sedation, very impaired coordination
Acetaminophen Increased risk of liver toxicity and damage
Guaifenesin (expectorant) Increased drowsiness possible
Phenylephrine (decongestant) Increased heart rate/blood pressure
Codeine (opioid cough suppressant) Dangerous sedation, respiratory depression, overdose, and death

Is it safe to drink a little alcohol with cold medicine?

There is no universally safe amount of alcohol to drink with common cold medications. Any amount of alcohol interacts with active ingredients like dextromethorphan, acetaminophen, antihistamines, etc. Even one drink can start causing increased drowsiness, dizziness, liver toxicity, heart rate changes, and other problems.

The FDA advises avoiding any amount of alcohol if you are taking medications that can cause drowsiness or use acetaminophen. It’s better to abstain from alcohol completely rather than try to limit yourself to a “safe” number of drinks when taking cold medicine.

Tips for taking cold medicine safely with alcohol

If you want to minimize any risks from mixing cold medicine and alcohol, follow these tips:

  • Avoid alcohol completely while taking any cold medicine, and for at least 4-6 hours after your last dose.
  • Never mix alcohol with cold medicines containing acetaminophen, antihistamines, dextromethorphan, or phenylephrine.
  • Be extra cautious with multi-ingredient cold medicines like NyQuil or DayQuil.
  • Never mix alcohol with prescription opioid cough syrups like codeine.
  • Read medicine labels carefully and ask your pharmacist if unsure about drug interactions with alcohol.
  • Stick to cough drops/lozenges as they interact less significantly with alcohol.
  • Limit alcohol intake as much as possible if you must drink while taking cold medicine.
  • Wait at least 6 hours after taking any cold medicine before drinking alcohol.

The bottom line

It’s generally risky to mix alcohol with common cold medications like NyQuil, Robitussin, Theraflu, and others. These drugs contain active ingredients that can interact with alcohol and cause side effects like excessive sedation, impaired coordination, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and liver toxicity.

Avoid drinking any amount of alcohol, even “just one drink,” while taking cold medicines. Antihistamines, dextromethorphan, acetaminophen, and phenylephrine may have reduced efficacy and stronger side effects if mixed with alcohol. Prescription cough syrups with opioids like codeine must never be combined with alcohol due to potentially fatal risks.

To minimize problems, abstain from alcohol completely while sick and taking cold medicine. If you must drink, use only cough drops/lozenges and limit alcohol intake as much as possible. Never mix alcohol with multi-ingredient cold medicines or those containing codeine.