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"Is it okay to combine cold and cough medicines?"

ZocdocAnswersIs it okay to combine cold and cough medicines?


I have a bad cold with a pretty severe cough. I have been taking cough syrup but I want to start taking an over the counter cold pill too. Is this okay? Is it okay to take more than one medication for a cold or cough?


A cough is a symptom of a "common cold," which is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract. It leads to sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, and cough. This is usually a self limiting process as a normal healthy child or adult immune system is very effective at fighting the cold and clearing the symptoms within 7-10 days. Sometimes symptoms may persist for several weeks and this is not abnormal. Treatment of a common cold is aimed at minimizing and controlling the symptoms such as cough and runny nose, or sore throat. When taking over the counter medications, the most important thing is to look at the active ingredients and figure out which of these you need. You can combine certain medications, in fact many over the counter medications are in fact combinations. For example, DayQuill contains acetaminophen (which is tylenol and helps with the sore throat) as well as Dextrometorphan (which is the active ingredient in Robitussin and helps with cough) and Phenylephrine (which is aimed to help with congestion). You may combine medications as long as you read the active ingredients and make sure you're not taking two medications that have the same active ingredient. For example, if you take Motrin (Active ingredient = Ibuprofen, for sore throat) and Robitussin (Active ingredient = Dextrometorphan, for cough), that is a safe combination. Taking Dayquill and tylenol, would not be recommended as dayquill already has tylenol. Please consult your primary care physician for safe medications and dosages.

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