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Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is an antitussive (cough suppressant) available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that controls coughs due to minor throat and bronchial irritation as may occur with the common cold or inhaled irritants. It may be written as dextromethorphan or dextromethorphan hydrobromide, but it is the same active ingredient. Dextromethorphan can be the only active ingredient in a cough suppressant medicine, or it can be found in medicines that treat the multiple symptoms of cough and cold. Dextromethorphan is also available in cough suppressant lozenges which are considered to be topical products because they are dissolved slowly in the mouth, not swallowed whole.

Dextromethorphan is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to label directions. But just like all medicines, cough suppressants should be taken only as directed and stored in a safe, secured location.

*Dextromethorphan may not be contained in all products sold under these brands. Please read the OTC Drug Facts label carefully for active ingredient information for specific products. 

Tips for Medicines with Dextromethorphan

When using dextromethorphan-containing medicines, it is important to know that:

  • You should never take more medicine than is recommended on the label.
  • Cough suppressant lozenges should be placed in the mouth and dissolved slowly. Do not swallow a lozenge whole.

Do not use if:

  • You are currently taking a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) (certain drugs for depression, psychiatric or emotional conditions, or Parkinson’s disease) or if you stopped taking an MAOI less than two weeks ago.
  • You have a chronic cough due to smoking, asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema, or if your cough is accompanied by excessive congestion (mucus), unless a doctor tells you to.

Ask a healthcare professional before use if:

  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Stop use and ask a doctor if:

  • You take too much. Immediately contact a doctor or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.
  • Your cough lasts for more than one week, comes back, or is accompanied by a fever, rash, or persistent headache.

Additional information:

While cough suppressant medicines containing dextromethorphan are non-narcotic and non-addictive, dextromethorphan sometimes is abused by young people in an attempt to get high. Reports indicate that teens looking to get high may take 25 to 50 times the recommended amount on the label to get high. Be aware of the possibility for abuse. More information is available at www.StopMedicineAbuse.org.

If you have questions about any of the medicines you are taking or if you have any unexpected side effects, talk to a healthcare professional. And of course, keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

Tips for Parents

  • Never give an OTC cough medicine or multi-symptom cough and cold product to a child under the age of four.
  • Before giving a cough suppressant lozenge to a child, make sure the child is able to safely dissolve a lozenge in his or her mouth without choking. Read the Drug Facts label carefully for appropriate use in children and contact a doctor as directed.
  • Dextromethorphan-containing medicines are available in different dosage strengths. Do not give any OTC medicine to a child that is only intended for use in adults.
  • Read the label for proper child dosing instructions. Contact a healthcare professional as directed.

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