Dayquil Cold & Flu (commonly referred to just as Dayquil) treats symptoms of the cold and flu. Dayquil Cold & Flu is an over-the-counter medication that contains acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and phenylephrine. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and reduces fever, phenylephrine is a decongestant, and dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant. However, different Dayquil formulations contain different active ingredients, so always remember to read the product label.
In general, do not drink alcohol during a cold or flu. Alcohol dehydrates the body and weakens the immune system. However, some people with a cold or flu may still be interested in drinking alcohol while taking Dayquil. There are several important facts to consider before combining the two drugs.
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The Risks of Mixing Alcohol & DayQuil
Alcohol should not be mixed with Dayquil because:
- Alcohol interacts with both acetaminophen and dextromethorphan
- Different doses of Dayquil interact negatively with alcohol
- In high quantities, alcohol, and acetaminophen directly damage the liver
- Using both substances together can increase a person’s risk of overdose
Liver Damage Risks
The Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily maximum dose of acetaminophen is 3,000 mg. However, the maximum daily dose is lower if a person drinks alcohol regularly. Dayquil LiquiCaps contains 325 mg of acetaminophen, while the syrup contains 650 mg per dose. The manufacturer notes that severe liver damage may occur if someone:
- Takes more than four doses of Dayquil within 24 hours
- Combines Dayquil with other medications that contain acetaminophen
- Consumes three or more alcoholic drinks daily while taking Dayquil
Acetaminophen- or Dextromethorphan-Associated Risks
Acetaminophen overdose is, unfortunately, a common occurrence, so always stay within the recommended dose of Dayquil. Be aware that many other over-the-counter and prescription drugs contain acetaminophen. People should speak to a doctor or pharmacist if they drink alcohol and wish to take Dayquil.
Like acetaminophen, dextromethorphan used in combination with alcohol is dangerous and can result in an overdose. Some people might use high doses of dextromethorphan recreationally to produce a euphoric feeling. However, harmful side effects have been reported, including delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. Alcohol can make these effects worse.
The Side Effects of Combining Alcohol & Dayquil
At standard doses, side effects of Dayquil may include dizziness, headache, upset stomach, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and liver damage (because of the acetaminophen). Alcohol can worsen all of the common side effects of Dayquil and increase a person’s risk of overdose.
- Other common side effects of mixing alcohol and Dayquil may include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Nausea or vomiting
- Serious liver damage (because of acetaminophen used with alcohol)
- Increased risk of alcohol use disorder
- Signs of an overdose involving Dayquil and alcohol may include:
- Excessive drowsiness
- Abdominal pain
The psychotic effects are primarily the result of dextromethorphan, while vomiting and abdominal pain may be a sign of acute acetaminophen overdose. However, it is important to note that acetaminophen can damage the liver without any immediate side effects.
An overdose with Dayquil and alcohol is dangerous and potentially fatal. Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect an overdose related to Dayquil and alcohol use.
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Acetaminophen Information.” Published on November 24, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2019.
DailyMed. “DayQuil Package Insert.” Published March 23, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Martinak, Bridgette, et al. “extromethorphan in Cough Syrup: The Poor Man’s Psychosis.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Medline Plus. “Dextromethorphan.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Medline Plus. “Phenylephrine.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Center for Substance Abuse Research. “Dextromethorphan.” Published on October 23, 2013. Accessed March 24, 2019.
Merck Manual. “Acetaminophen Poisoning.” Published January 2018. Accessed March 24, 2019.