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Dayquil and Alcohol Interaction: Can You Drink Alcohol with Dayquil?

Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 02/06/2023

Dayquil is a cold and flu medicine used to treat symptoms of congestion, suppress a lingering cough, and reduce the symptoms of a fever. The difference between Dayquil and its counterpart Nyquil is that Dayquil is the non-drowsy version of Nyquil, which has a sleeping agent built into it. However, both medications are not recommended for individuals under the age of four. 

There are several active ingredients contained in Dayquil that make it dangerous to mix with alcohol. The most dangerous is acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is used as a moderate pain reliever and a fever reducer as well. Mixing Acetaminophen and alcohol consistently over a long period does tend to lead to liver damage, which can be severe and even life-threatening if not treated early. Acetaminophen is not recommended for individuals who drink alcohol regularly, and it is common for doctors to prescribe lower doses of Acetaminophen to avoid overworking the liver and leading to severe damage. 

What Are The Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Dayquil? 

The effects of mixing alcohol and Dayquil can be many and frequently can prove dangerous, even deadly, in both the short and long term. This is why mixing alcohol and Dayquil is not recommended at all by any medical professionals and also why warnings are placed on the physical packaging of the bottle to inform people of the potential dangers of such a potent mixture. 

Due to the fact that Dayquil and alcohol each have a sedative influence on the body, when mixed the effects can be multiplied to dangerous levels. Apart from the short-term dangers associated with a severe sedative influence on the body, such as slowed motor skills and severe drowsiness, there are also long-term side effects such as severe liver damage if the two substances are consumed regularly over a long period. There is also the added risk of not healing an illness or disease, as alcohol has the propensity to suppress the immune system and halt the body from healing from flu-like symptoms. Dayquil is taken to help the body recover, which is why drinking alcohol at the same time as taking Dayquil is not sensible for a person intending to heal from the flu or another similar illness. 

Taking Dayquil with alcohol can intensify the depressive aspects of both substances, which can be an addictive combination. Below we list the problems that arise when you mix alcohol and Dayquil.

1. Liver Damage

Liver Damage is caused when the liver experiences increased toxicity over the short or a long term. Long-term liver damage is most prevalent in individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol regularly, or who take certain medications regularly over a long period. One of the drugs found in Dayquil which can cause liver damage if abused or used too frequently is Acetaminophen, an active ingredient not only found in Dayquil Liquicaps, but in a wide variety of medications used for moderating pain and also for reducing fevers. In the case of Dayquil, Acetaminophen has been known to cause liver damage on its own if more than 3,000 mg of Acetaminophen is consumed, or if more than four doses of Acetaminophen are taken within twenty-four hours. 

Combining Acetaminophen with alcohol, however, can cause dangerous side effects to the liver, such as severe damage, which if not treated quickly, can be irreversible. If the liver is damaged, then it is likely that the body will experience other considerably bad symptoms, such as nausea, loss of appetite, and jaundice. Liver damage can only be avoided by drinking alcohol in moderation and never mixing alcohol with Dayquil. Sometimes the damage can go unseen and unfelt until it is too severe to be reversed, so it is always best to avoid mixing alcohol and Dayquil. 

2. Dextromethorphan Dangers

The active ingredient in Dayquil, Dextromethorphan, is a cough suppressant and a sedative. It may cause dangerous physical symptoms if not used sparingly. Dextromethorphan, when overused, causes symptoms such as tachycardia, which is defined as any heart rate which is over one hundred beats per minute, breathing that is slowed, changes in blood pressure, changes in body temperature, and even seizures. Not only do these symptoms cause such damage, but if left untreated, a person who is suffering from a Dextromethorphan overdose has the potential to fall into a coma or even die. 

Mixing the antitussive medication with alcohol can cause even more disastrous effects, as alcohol is a central nervous system depressant as well, causing sedation, lethargy, and with increased amounts of Dextromethorphan, visual hallucinations, potential loss of reality, delusional behavior, potentially lethal seizures, unconsciousness, and, with over 600 mg. of Dextromethorphan, an individual can fall into a coma.

Long-term problems that are associated with chronic abuse of Dextromethorphan and alcohol include neurological damage, tolerance to both Dextromethorphan and alcohol, as well as chronic respiratory issues due to chronic respiratory suppression caused by the antitussive quality of the drug. If you or someone you know has ingested more than the recommended dosage of Dayquil, or is mixing it with alcohol, they should be monitored as hospitalization is the only way to attempt to treat the short-term symptoms described above.

3. Unusual Bleeding and Bruising 

While unusual bleeding and bruising seem like a vague description of side effects, the most common examples of unusual bleeding occur because of issues and injury to the digestive system. If Dayquil and alcohol are abused, similarly to the way that they can damage the liver, the combination can cause damage to the stomach and intestines as well. 

One of the key indications that this kind of damage is occurring is if a person finds blood in their stool or urine. Black, tarry stools are also an indication of similar damage, and even bleeding gums, which is not directly tied to the same damaged area, but a known side effect of Dayquil and alcohol abuse. If any of these symptoms appear, it is very important to seek out help from a medical professional for treatment. Sometimes treatment will include ceasing to take the medication, but one should check in with their medical professional before doing so, as addiction is possible, and withdrawal symptoms may occur.

4. Fever

Mixing alcohol and Dayquil can also result in fever, even though Dayquil possesses active ingredients meant to reduce fevers because when mixed, alcohol interacts with both Dextromethorphan and Acetaminophen in such a way that a fever is possible. This is a common side effect, and while low-grade fevers are not particularly life-threatening, high-grade fevers should be taken very seriously, as a high-grade fever can cause permanent brain damage.

Additionally, taking Dayquil is meant to reduce the symptoms of a cold or the flu, which is why drinking alcohol, and risking getting a fever, or worsening one, is not sensible. Treatment for a fever includes drinking a high volume of fluids, keeping warm, and resting until the body’s temperature returns to normal. If the temperature is extremely high, reaching upwards of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, seeking medical attention is highly recommended. Pumping the stomach may be considered by a medical professional if there is a dangerous amount of alcohol and Dayquil in the system, however, pumping the stomach is not effective after several hours, which is why abstaining from mixing alcohol with Dayquil is always the safest way to avoid such high-risk side effects. 

5. Nausea or Vomiting

One of the most common side effects of mixing Dayquil and alcohol is nausea and/or vomiting. Because Dayquil and alcohol are not meant to mix in the stomach, and a large dose of either substance can cause nausea and/or vomiting on its own, when the two are mixed in the stomach, the chances of experiencing such symptoms heavily increases. Nausea will usually pass as the body manages to digest the Dayquil and alcohol, however, if the pain worsens or becomes unbearable medical attention should be sought out, as there are more severe complications that can arise. Similarly, vomiting, while it can be the stomach’s way of purging the body of unwanted substances, can be dangerously volatile, especially if blood can be seen in the vomit. In this case, abstaining from mixing Dayquil and alcohol is the surest way to avoid nausea and/or vomiting. 

Does Dayquil Affect the Taste of Alcohol?

While the taste of alcohol is not affected by taking Dayquil, unless the two are ingested at the same time or the Dayquil, which tends to have a menthol flavor, is taken first, they should still not be combined. In the case of consumption at the same time, the taste of alcohol can be impacted and even spoiled by the heavy menthol flavor of the Dayquil.

Does Dayquil Affect the Effects of Alcohol? 

Yes, Dayquil does affect the effects of alcohol as some of the active ingredients in Dayquil have similarly sedative effects on the respiratory system as alcohol, which is classed as a depressant, has on the entire body. This fact means that mixing Dayquil and alcohol can cause interaction with one another, intensifying the effects of either, and leading to very dangerous symptoms and outcomes. 

Many of the side effects of alcohol poisoning, such as severe vomiting, severe nausea, loss of motor skills, and unconsciousness, are all possible when mixing Dayquil with alcohol, and probably also means that less alcohol is required to reach serious physical side effects. It is best to abstain from drinking when taking Dayquil as medicine, and neither should either be abused to achieve any mind-altered state, as the results can be deadly. 

Does Dayquil Have Alcohol In It?

No, but while Dayquil does not have alcohol in it, that does not mean the other active ingredients in Dayquil will not mix chemically with alcohol. The drugs that are used in Dayquil as medicine do not mix safely with alcohol. 

Can A Mixture of Dayquil and Alcohol Lead To Death?

Yes, a mixture of Dayquil and alcohol does have the potential to lead to death. As both Dayquil and alcohol are sedatives, they mix in dangerous ways, especially if either substance is abused in a single sitting. Dayquil remains in the system for four to six hours after taking the medicine, which means that a person should abstain from drinking alcohol for at least that amount of time, if not twenty-four hours, to ensure safety. Similarly, one drink of alcohol remains in the system for up to three hours, which means alcohol should not be consumed soon after taking Dayquil. 

When it comes to fatal doses of Dayquil, any amount more than the recommended dosage can be risky. When mixed with alcohol, that risk skyrockets. If a person takes triple or quadruple the recommended dosage, and drinks alcohol, there is a risk of overdose. Liver damage and even death can result in overdose, and some of the indications of an overdose due to mixing alcohol and Dayquil include abdominal pain, fatigue, general malaise, intense nausea, intense vomiting, diarrhea, intense sweating, convulsions, and even a coma. If any of these symptoms are being experienced, time may be of the essence, and seeking professional medical treatment would be key to avoiding death. 

Treatment of a Dayquil and alcohol overdose includes taking N-acetylcysteine, which helps to prevent liver damage. If someone is addicted to alcohol, and is incapable of not drinking, then Dayquil should be avoided, as these side effects can be life-threatening. It is advised to speak to a medical professional before starting Dayquil treatment if a person has an alcohol addiction. 

Who Should Not Take Alcohol and Dayquil?

Alcohol and Dayquil should never be mixed by anyone. However, those at higher risk for dangerous side effects are people who have alcohol use disorder, as their blood alcohol levels might be high when they take Dayquil.

Also, people who have liver damage or are experiencing liver diseases of any kind should abstain from mixing Dayquil and alcohol, and really should not be drinking alcohol at all, as the combination can do devastating damage to the liver and worsen the symptoms of the pre-existing condition. All in all, everyone is at risk of the side effects described above to some degree, regardless of alcohol tolerance or even tolerance of the active ingredients in Dayquil, as the combination of both results in extremely intense symptoms. 

Can I Take Dayquil with Alcohol When Pregnant? 

While some doctors do allow for alcohol to be consumed 4-6 hours after taking Dayquil, as that is the typical amount of time it takes for the drug to leave the system, one should not mix Dayquil with alcohol when pregnant.

Taking Dayquil when pregnant to treat a cold is not life-threatening to the mother or the child, but the dangerous side effects caused by mixing Dayquil and alcohol can endanger both mother and child, and should be avoided. It is always best to consult a medical professional when it comes to questions about medication during pregnancy, as a doctor may advise a pregnant person differently than they would someone who is not carrying a child. In any case, taking Dayquil and alcohol at the same time is never recommended, and can be extremely harmful, whether a person is pregnant or not. 

Are All Types of Alcohol Harmful with Dayquil? 

Yes, all types of alcohol are harmful to Dayquil. It is not the style of alcoholic beverage that controls how dangerous alcohol is when taken with Dayquil, but rather the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks, ethanol, that interacts so dangerously with Dayquil.

A serving of alcohol, be it a shot of liquor, a single beer, or a glass of wine, all possess the same risk when mixed with Dayquil. However, liquor, which takes up very little volume in the stomach and which, when consumed rapidly, can have a very strong effect, is probably the most harmful of all the different kinds of alcoholic beverage. The effects of liquor can come on very strongly, and when mixed with Dayquil, the results can prove life-threatening rapidly, sometimes even before medical help can be found. This does not mean that abstaining from drinking liquor but having beers or wines is any safer. Any amount of alcohol is going to interact with Dayquil in some way, so it is always best to abstain from drinking alcohol when taking the Dayquil medication. 

How Much Dayquil Can Be Dangerous to Take With Alcohol?

While the amount of alcohol that can be dangerous to drink differs from one person to the next, anything more than a single serving of Dayquil can be dangerous on its own, and even a single dose can be especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol. As described above, after 4-6 hours one dose of Dayquil does leave the system, and is not known to interact with alcohol, but consuming more than the intended dose can lead to an extended period of activity in the system, and a greater, more intense interaction with alcohol if it is consumed. The more Dayquil, or the more alcohol, the greater the chance of more life-threatening side effects, such as overdose, unconsciousness, coma, and even death. 

Does Alcohol Affect How Well Dayquil Will Work? 

Alcohol does affect how well Dayquil will work. Although both substances have suppressive qualities, Dayquil is meant to reduce fevers and suppress coughs, while alcohol, as it is naturally inflammatory, can worsen symptoms of cold and flu. This results in a situation where the alcohol is directly hampering the ability of the Dayquil to do its job: treat colds and flu. This is one reason, apart from the physical risks, that doctors recommend abstaining from alcohol when taking Dayquil, as the effects of alcohol can reverse the benefits of Dayquil.

Additionally, side effects like nausea, which are possible to experience when taking Dayquil on its own, increase in possibility when alcohol is thrown into the mix. It is always safest to avoid mixing alcohol with any medicine that includes an active ingredient like Acetaminophen, not to mention the other active ingredients in Dayquil which are equally risky to mix. 

How Long After Taking Dayquil Can You Drink Alcohol? 

It is safest to wait a minimum of four and up to six hours after taking one dose of Dayquil to start drinking alcohol. However, it is even safer to wait at least twenty-four hours, as that gives the body more than enough time to process the Dayquil and allow it to exit the system.

What Are Other Drugs That Are Dangerous to Use With Alcohol? 

Many other drugs possess active ingredients which do not mix well with alcohol and can cause extremely dangerous side effects. Any medicine which includes Acetaminophen does have the potential for risky side effects. These include some allergy medicines, Tylenol, and many over-the-counter medicines. Additionally, Depressants, Opiates, and Stimulants, even if they are prescribed, should never be mixed with alcohol. Alcohol has a tendency to worsen the potentially dangerous side effects of most drugs, which is why it should be avoided when taking these drugs. 

Always contact a medical professional before taking any medicine or prescribed drug to inquire about the potential risks and side effects of mixing with alcohol. It is sometimes safe to mix alcohol with medication, but more often than not, the combination can prove dangerous, so ask a doctor before using a drug and alcohol at the same time.