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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Dextromethorphan is a cough medication used to relieve dry and tickly coughs. You can buy it from your pharmacy either on its own or in combination with other medications for colds and flu. There are various products available. Examples include Robitussin and Benylin Dry Cough Medicines, Night Nurse, and many others.   

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Dextromethorphan is suitable for adults and children aged 12 and above. However, the age restrictions and dosing instructions can vary between different dextromethorphan products, so make sure you follow the specific guidance for the product you have purchased.

How does it work?

Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant (antitussive). It may stop you from coughing by suppressing brain activity responsible for the normal cough reflex, however, it is not fully clear how effective dextromethorphan is when we try to evidence the benefits in studies.

Pharmacist recommended products

Should anyone avoid taking it?

Do not take dextromethorphan if you are allergic to the medication, or another ingredient listed in the product. Children under 12 should not take dextromethorphan. If you avoid ingesting alcohol in any form, please note that some dextromethorphan products do contain small amounts of alcohol due to their production.

Speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking dextromethorphan if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have liver or kidney problems, diabetes, respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD as the medication may not be suitable for you. If you take any prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist to check they are safe to take alongside dextromethorphan.

Are there any side-effects?

As with all medications, some people may experience side effects. These can include nausea and vomiting, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness and confusion. If dextromethorphan makes you feel drowsy, you should avoid driving or working. Also, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol when taking the medication, as it can worsen your side effects. Dextromethorphan can cause dependence if you take it for too long. If you are dependent on dextromethorphan, you will feel unwell when you go without the medication – you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about this or any specific side effects.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023