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Dayquil and Alcohol

Estimated reading time: 32 minute(s)

Dayquil is a popular over-the-counter flu and cold medicine that has been helping millions of people relieve cough, congestion, and other symptoms of fever. Because it is such a common medication, many people believe it is extremely safe to use and feel comfortable on a day-to-day basis. While this is true to some extent, the medication poses a few dangers, especially in people who combine it with alcohol.

If you like to drink now and then but also require using Dayquil occasionally, it is crucial to understand the key risks of this combination so that you can save your health and protect yourself from unnecessary risks.

What is Included in Dayquil Ingredients?

Dayquil is a common medication people use to overcome the typical symptoms of cough, cold, and flu. The medicine comprises three main ingredients included below:

Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is one of the best-known ingredients found in most cough medicines. It belongs to the same family of drugs as morphine and acts as a cough suppressant with soothing properties. In recommended doses, dextromethorphan can numb the throat and senses; however, in excessive doses, it may act as a powerful dissociative with hallucinogenic properties.

Acetaminophen

Also known as paracetamol, the chemical acts as a moderate-level fever reducer and pain reliever.

Phenylephrine

Phenylephrine is a decongestant used as a nasal spray to fight cough, cold, and flu.

What Happens if You Mix Dayquil and Alcohol?

The side effects of Dayquil and alcohol can overlap, making life uncomfortable for a person. Alcohol can also exacerbate certain side effects of Dayquil, such as the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness

consuming Dayquil with alcohol together can also exacerbate certain serious side effects, such as the following:

  • Increased sedation
  • Hallucinations
  • Respiratory depression may potentially become life-threatening
  • Slow, fast, or irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Drinking alcohol in large amounts can also cause an individual to lose consciousness whereas if you mix it with Dayquil, they may experience slow, shallow breathing, which may eventually lead to coma and death. Moreover, alcohol consumption can also cause dehydration and reduce the function of the immune system, which may worsen the symptoms of cold and flu. These effects, in turn, counteract the potential benefits of Dayquil and slow down its mechanism of action, making it harder and longer for the body to recover from cold and flu.

How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Effectiveness of Dayquil?

Using alcohol with Dayquil can not only lead to multiple side effects, but the former can also interfere with and reduce the efficacy of the latter. Following are some ways in which alcohol consumption can reduce the effectiveness of Dayquil in treating colds and flu:

It impairs the immune system

Alcohol significantly weakens the immune system, making it tougher for the body to ward off infections, including colds and flu. With a weakened immune system, Dayquil may not work as efficiently as in someone not using alcohol.

It interferes with the absorption of Dayquil

Alcohol can interrupt the absorption of various medications in the gastrointestinal tract, including Dayquil. As this happens, the body does not receive enough levels of medicine to combat cold and flu symptoms.

It triggers dehydration

Alcohol possesses diuretic properties, forcing the body to excrete more urine, eventually leading to dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, can exacerbate cold and flu symptoms, making it more difficult for medicines like Dayquil to provide relief.

It enhances drowsiness

Alcohol interacts with dextromethorphan, one of the active components of Dayquil, to decrease alertness and impair coordination. As a consequence of these heightened drowsiness levels, the body finds it much more difficult to recover from illness.

How Bad is Mixing Dayquil and Alcohol: Possible Interactions

Let’s take a look at the possible interactions of alcohol with the three main ingredients of Dayquil.

Acetaminophen & Alcohol

Acetaminophen is commonly available under the brand name called Tylenol. It is one of the most common drug ingredients across the United States, containing more than 600 medications. Despite being an effective fever reducer and pain reliever, acetaminophen can be potentially toxic to the liver. Acetaminophen overdose is one of the country’s leading causes of liver failure and the second leading cause of liver failure requiring a transplant. Taking any medication that contains this chemical, along with alcohol, can significantly raise the risk of liver injury. Other side effects associated with this combination include the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Excessive tiredness or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Nausea and vomiting

The elevated risk of liver damage due to mixing acetaminophen with alcohol is associated with how the body breaks down the former. The liver acts on acetaminophen in the body and breaks it down into various substances. One of these substances is called NAPQI, which can particularly damage the liver. As long as a person takes normal doses of acetaminophen, the body can efficiently take care of NAPQI by neutralizing it through an antioxidant substance called glutathione. However, people who drink heavily, such as those with 3 drinks per day, may experience a drop in the glutathione levels in the body.

Read Also About Dangers Of Mixing Sudafed And Alcohol

As a result, NAPQI continues to build up to a dangerously high level, damaging the liver cells in the process and triggering severe liver damage. If continued, this damage may become irreversible and potentially life-threatening, with a liver transplant as a last resort.

Dextromethorphan & Alcohol

Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is one of the three active ingredients present in Dayquil and can help suppress cough and manage other cold symptoms. The chemical can lead to various side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, poor concentration, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and dizziness. Combining it with alcohol can worsen these side effects by causing additional impairment in judgment and thinking. Experts highly recommend avoiding engaging in any activity that requires mental alertness, such as operating dangerous machinery or driving, as long as a person is under the influence of DXM.

Unfortunately, abuse of products containing DXM is becoming a common problem, especially in young populations across the United States. These populations rely on high doses of DXM to enjoy its psychoactive effects, a practice known as skittling or robotripping. Robotripping itself can lead to the following side effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Skittishness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Lethargy
  • Sweating
  • Slurred speech
  • High blood pressure

Combining alcohol with a product containing DXM, such as Dayquil, can exacerbate these side effects while increasing the risk of liver damage. Moreover, combining high doses of DXM with alcohol can lead to stupor, shallow breathing, and coma, which may eventually lead to death.

Phenylephrine & Alcohol

Phenylephrine is the third active ingredient present in Dayquil which can elevate blood pressure and heart rate. When combined with alcohol, these effects can magnify even more. As a result, people combining both agents are at an increased risk of cardiovascular events, especially in people with pre-existing blood pressure and heart issues.

Can You Die from Using Dayquil and Alcohol Together?

Taking Dayquil and alcohol simultaneously can put the body at risk of several side effects, some of which may become life-threatening. Some of these side effects that may potentially lead to a fatal event include the following:

Acetaminophen Overdose

Acetaminophen is one of the active ingredients found in Dayquil. Also known as paracetamol, this medication can cause extensive liver damage and trigger acute liver failure in some people. A person who takes an overdose of Dayquil or consumes a very high dose of the medication in one sitting can exacerbate their risk of acquiring these liver injuries, which may become irreversible and cause death. 

Alcohol Overdose

In some people, the dissociative effects of Dayquil may force them to drink higher levels of alcohol. Together with acetaminophen, alcohol can negatively affect the liver health. As the organ sustains damage, it is unable to clear both drugs from the system efficiently, leading to accumulation. Eventually, these buildups may reach toxic levels, leading to alcohol overdose. Following are some common symptoms of an alcohol overdose:

  • Mental confusion or stupor
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty remaining conscious
  • Seizures
  • Inability to wake up
  • Slow breathing, sometimes lesser than 8 breaths per minute
  • Slow heart rate
  • Irregular breathing
  • Clammy skin

Alternative Safe Home Remedies for Cold Symptoms

If you are using alcohol but wish to overcome your cold or flu symptoms, consider the following home remedies:

Hydration

Staying hydrated is crucial for thinking about mucus and flushing out toxins. Ensure that you drink plenty of water, clear broths, and clear juices, for example, cranberry juice. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine, as they may dehydrate you.

Rest

Getting adequate rest is crucial to managing the symptoms of cold and flu while speeding up the healing process. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night and consider taking naps during the day as needed.

Warm Liquids

Using warm liquids, for example, drinking chicken soup or taking a hot shower, can help manage flu and cold symptoms.

If you cannot take Dayquil because of your alcohol use, consider using the following over-the-counter alternatives to reduce the symptoms of flu and cold. These remedies are safe to mix with alcohol:

Saline Drops

Saline drops can effectively clear mucus and relieve high congestion levels from nasal sinuses. These drops are readily available at all pharmacies and are easy to make at home by mixing a quarter teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of lukewarm water.

Oxymetazoline nasal spray

Also known as Afrin nasal spray, this alternative remedy can help relieve nasal congestion and other signs of cold and flu without interacting with alcohol and producing side effects. However, remember that oxymetazoline is only suitable for a short time period, and using it for more than three days may lead to rebound symptoms.

Guaifenesin

Also known as Mucinex, this expectorant medication does not interact with alcohol; hence, people who like to drink can safely incorporate it into their daily life. The risk of side effects from combining Mucinex with moderate alcohol intake is very low.

FAQs

How long after taking Dayquil can I drink alcohol?

As a general rule, experts recommend avoiding alcohol for at least 4 to 6 hours after using Dayquil. However, postponing any drinking sessions until the drug is completely out of the system is always best. Studies suggest that the components of Dayquil are likely to linger on for up to six hours, so it is wise to wait at least this long to avoid any side effects.  Remember that this is a universal recommendation and may vary from one person to another depending on their liver health, amount of alcohol consumption, and overall health status. The wait time may be longer for people with underlying liver disease as their bodies cannot clear Dayquil as fast as a normal person. For more tailored advice, contact a healthcare professional, and where possible, try avoiding alcohol use as the safest way to prevent side effects.

Is the risk of side effects due to drinking with Dayquil higher in women?

In general, females are at a higher risk of encountering problems related to alcohol than males. When a woman consumes alcohol, the alcohol levels quickly build up in their bloodstream, usually at a much faster rate than in men. This faster buildup in females is due to less water content in their bodies than in males. As a result, alcohol remains more concentrated in a female’s body and can lead to more risks and damage to organs, such as the liver, when combined with medications like Dayquil.

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