Mixing Alcohol & Dayquil

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Is Dayquil still considered safe when mixed with alcohol? Dayquil is the popular cold and flu medication by the company Vicks. It is used to treat cold and flu symptoms without the drowsiness associated with its counterpart Nyquil. Though it is considered safe enough to be offered over the counter, Dayquil contains a host of powerful active ingredients. These ingredients are intended to suppress the symptoms related to cold and flu but may also have negative interactions when combined with alcohol.

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Common Side Effects of Dayquil & Cold Medications

Dayquil is composed of 3 active ingredients. The first, Acetaminophen, is commonly used to reduce fever and for the treatment of minor pain. Dextromethorphan (1) is included for its powerful cough suppression properties. Finally, Phenylephrine (2) is used for its nasal decongestant properties while avoiding feelings of drowsiness associated with other nasal decongestants.

Each of these active ingredients carries potential risks of side effects including:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling nervous
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach

Alcohol Can Increase Symptoms or Influence Effectiveness of Medicine

Most cold and flu medications are meant to be taken without alcohol present in the body. Many of the side effects of these medications can increase or become dangerous when compounded by alcohol consumption. Symptoms like nausea and upset stomach are commonly related to excess alcohol consumption. When cold and flu medications are causing the same side effects, the effects can increase in severity.

Does Alcohol Counteract the Effectiveness of Cold Medicine?

Though it is not recommended, alcohol has not been shown to counteract the effectiveness of cold medicines. The danger comes from the host of other health concerns than can arise from combining alcohol and cold medications. Stomach ulcers and liver damage have a greater chance of developing when alcohol is mixed (3) with most popular cold and flu medications.

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What Happens if You Drink Alcohol With Dayquil?

Each user will have different responses when mixing Dayquil and alcohol. Although it is difficult to point to one guaranteed reaction, there are some common side effects from this combination.

Dayquil & Alcohol Interactions in the Body

A common side effect of Dayquil is varying levels of distress in the stomach. This can include nausea and generally “upset” stomach. When alcohol is consumed alongside Dayquil, these symptoms can multiply. This increase in intestinal stress can simply mean increased discomfort or a serious health condition.

Can Drinking Alcohol While Taking Dayquil Cause Adverse Side Effects?

Drinking alcohol can often lead to feelings of distress within the digestive system. Nausea and an “upset” stomach are commonly associated with alcohol consumption. These same side effects are commonly associated with Dayquil use as well. As alcohol is consumed, the user may become more sensitive to the digestive problems associated with Dayquil.

Dextromethorphan & Alcohol

Dextromethorphan (also known as DXM (4)) is used in Dayquil for its cough suppression abilities. When used in high enough doses it can produce feelings of euphoria. It is an active ingredient in the popular cold medication Robitussin. Because of this, the high it causes is referred to as “Robo-tripping.”

Side effects of dextromethorphan misuse can include slurred speech, loss of coordination, and nausea. Each of these symptoms can be compounded when mixed with alcohol.

Phenylephrine Interactions With Alcohol

Phenylephrine is used in Dayquil for its nasal decongestant abilities. It has many of the same potential side effects as other Dayquil ingredients including nausea and “upset” stomach. These symptoms can increase in severity when mixed with alcohol.

Acetaminophen & Alcohol

An active ingredient in Dayquil is acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is commonly known by its brand name Tylenol and is used for the treatment of fever and minor pain. As the body processes acetaminophen, the liver will be under increased stress. This filtering organ works overtime to produce a special enzyme that helps break down acetaminophen. This enzyme produces a toxic byproduct that is potentially harmful but normally able to process through the liver. However, when alcohol is consumed, the liver is no longer able to process this compound as well. This multiplies the stress caused by the body’s need to filter these substances, often damaging the liver.

Can Mixing Alcohol With Dayquil & Cold or Flu Medications Be Dangerous?

Cold and flu medications like Dayquil that contain acetaminophen can be difficult for the liver to process. When used correctly, the liver is usually able to metabolize these medications without any issue. When combined with alcohol, however, the liver is placed under compounding levels of stress. This amount of extra work can be potentially damaging to the liver.

How Long Should You Wait to Consume Alcohol?

After cold and flu medications like Dayquil are consumed, it is recommended that the user wait 24 hours before drinking alcohol. This will allow your liver to process the medication before adding additional stress.

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  1. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Dextromethorphan
  2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Phenylephrine
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11776481/
  4. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/DXM-2020.pdf

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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