Can You Safely Take NyQuil During The Day?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not NyQuil can be taken during the day, not just at night before bed.

Can You Safely Take NyQuil During The Day?
Jan 13, 2020

Leslie asked

Hello! NyQuil really helps with my cold symptoms but I want to know if it is safe to take it during the day instead of just at night. Thanks for your help!

At a glance

  • NyQuil contains several sedating ingredients, including alcohol (10% by volume) and doxylamine, a first-generation antihistamine.
  • NyQuil technically can be taken during the day, but remember that it will make you tired. Generally, it is best to only take it at night or if you plan on being home during the day resting. You should not partake in any activities that require mental alertness (e.g. driving) while taking the medication (each dose lasts around four to six hours).


NyQuil bottle on bathroom counter with dose cup

Hello and thank you for reaching out to us!

You certainly could take NyQuil during the day, but you probably shouldn't if you can't afford to be tired or drowsy.

Remember that NyQuil is a nighttime formulation cough/cold medication and contains ingredients that will make you tired.

For your reference, let's review the list of active ingredients contained in NyQuil:

The ingredient I have highlighted here is the sedating antihistamine doxylamine.

Doxylamine is a first-generation antihistamine, very similar to Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Both cause pronounced sedation and last about four to six hours per dose.

Doxylamine is actually widely used just by itself as a sleep aid. For example, Unisom, a popular sleep aid product, contains only doxylamine. That gives you an idea of how sedating it is.

Now, while the doxylamine contained in NyQuil will make you tired, it is not included as an ingredient solely for that purpose.

As mentioned, it is an antihistamine. It will help reduce the severity of a number of cold symptoms including a runny nose, watery/itchy eyes and can reduce post-nasal drip since it has drying properties.

In addition to doxylamine, NyQuil also contains 10% alcohol by volume (20 proof), which, give or take a few percentage points, is about the percent alcohol of wine.

Due to the sedating properties of NyQuil, it really only makes sense to take it at night or if you are going to be home resting. Technically, yes, you can take NyQuil during the day, but you shouldn't partake in any activity that requires mental alertness (e.g. driving, working at your job) while on it.

There are plenty of other cough/cold medications that are available over the counter if you need to take something during the day that won't sedate you.

One example is DayQuil, which does not contain an antihistamine. It contains:

  • Acetaminophen (pain/fever reducer)
  • Dextromethorphan (cough suppressant)
  • Phenylephrine (nasal decongestant)

DayQuil basically substitutes the doxylamine for phenylephrine, a decongestant. DayQuil also contains no alcohol and is generally non-sedating.

Final Words

I know it can sometimes be difficult to find the right medication since there are just so many options.

I always recommend listing out the specific symptoms you are trying to treat and ask the pharmacist for a suggestion. They can help to find the appropriate product based on your symptoms and considerations (like not wanting to be tired).

I also want to point out that NyQuil is available in an alcohol-free version. Not only does this product not contain alcohol, it actually does not contain doxylamine either. It instead, contains a different antihistamine, chlorpheniramine.

Chlorpheniramine is not as sedating as doxylamine is but it still is a relatively sedating antihistamine, especially when you compare it to non-sedating ones like Claritin and Allegra. Most studies concerning chlorpheniramine classify it as having a mild to moderate sedative effect.

Thanks for your question and be sure to contact us with any further inquiries!

  1. Vick's Manufacturer Website. Vick's
  2. Sedation and the stimulus properties of antihistamines. PubMed
  3. Effects of a sedative antihistamine, D-chlorpheniramine, on regional cerebral perfusion and performance during simulated car driving. PubMed
  4. Chlorpheniramine Monograph. UpToDate (Subscription Required)

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