DayQuil is an over-the-counter medication used to treat cold and flu symptoms such as sneezing, cough, and sore throat. When used as recommended, it’s generally safe. However, it can have dangerous side effects when mixed with other substances, including alcohol.
Mixing DayQuil & Alcohol
Like most medications, DayQuil can have side effects. These effects may be more intense if you mix alcohol with the drug. The most common side effects of DayQuil include:
- trouble sleeping
Serious Side Effects
Drinking alcohol also makes you more likely to experience DayQuil’s more serious side effects. These include:
- trouble breathing
- trouble swallowing
- rash, hives, or itching
- blistering or peeling skin
- swelling of the face, eyes, lips, tongue, throat, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
In addition, most formulations of DayQuil contain acetaminophen and dextromethorphan. Both of these substances can interact negatively with alcohol.
Dangers Of Mixing Acetaminophen & Alcohol
Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. It’s often sold under the brand name Tylenol. It also appears as an active ingredient in many other medications besides DayQuil.
While acetaminophen is typically safe, it can cause liver damage when mixed with alcohol. When your liver metabolizes (breaks down) acetaminophen, it produces a byproduct called NAPQI. This toxic substance can wreak havoc on your liver.
Normally, your body prevents NAPQI-related liver damage by producing an antioxidant called glutathione. When you drink alcohol, however, your glutathione levels decrease. This makes it easier for NAPQI to damage or even kill your liver cells. You may then develop liver disease, which can lead to liver failure.
Acetaminophen-Related Liver Damage
According to the makers of DayQuil, you face a higher risk of acetaminophen-related liver damage if you have three or more alcoholic drinks per day. However, even a single drink can increase your risk of amphetamine overdose. This condition causes symptoms such as:
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- yellowing of the skin and/or eyes
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away. When left untreated, an acetaminophen overdose can be life-threatening.
Dangers Of Mixing Dextromethorphan & Alcohol
Dextromethorphan, also called DXM, is a cough suppressant. It appears not only in DayQuil but also in many other cough, cold, and flu medications.
Both DXM and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. That means they slow down your brain activity. When you mix them, you may experience side effects such as:
- poor judgment
- poor coordination
- abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting
In addition, at high doses, DXM can make you hallucinate (see, hear, or feel things that aren’t there). You may also become highly irritable or even aggressive.
High doses of DXM can also cause euphoria (intense joy). That’s why some people, especially teenagers, abuse medications that contain DXM, including DayQuil.
This type of drug abuse is often called “robotripping.” It can lead to an overdose, especially if you mix the drug with alcohol. Common symptoms of a DXM overdose include:
- slow breathing
- blurry vision
- high blood pressure
- bluish lips and/or fingernails
- loss of consciousness
Like an acetaminophen overdose, a DXM overdose may be fatal. If you think you or someone you know is overdosing on DXM, call 911 right away.
How Soon Can You Drink Alcohol After Taking DayQuil?
When used as recommended, DayQuil stays in your system for about 4 to 6 hours. That means you should wait at least 6 hours after your last dose before you drink alcohol.
However, it’s best to avoid all alcohol until you no longer need DayQuil. That’s because drinking alcohol while sick can worsen your symptoms, including drowsiness, nausea, and body aches. It can also weaken your immune system. That means it will take longer for you to recover.
If you feel unable to avoid alcohol while taking DayQuil, you may have alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options
Alcohol addiction (also called alcohol use disorder) is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to stop drinking. Other symptoms include:
- tolerance, which means you need increasingly larger or more frequent drinks to feel the desired effects
- physical dependence, which means you experience withdrawal symptoms (such as anxiety, nausea, and headache) when you don’t drink alcohol
- mood swings
- loss of interest in activities that don’t involve alcohol
- loss of motivation
Like other diseases, alcohol addiction requires treatment. Most treatment programs offer the following services:
- medical detox, in which doctors help you slowly and safely stop drinking alcohol with minimal withdrawal symptoms
- mental health counseling, in which therapists help you manage alcohol cravings and strengthen your overall mental health
- medication-assisted treatment, in which doctors prescribe medications to ease alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- support groups, in which you can connect with other people recovering from alcohol addiction
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol or another substance, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. Our outpatient treatment programs provide personalized, evidence-based services to help you stay healthy and sober.