What Cough Medication Is Safe While On Dialysis

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses over the counter cough medications that are safe to use while undergoing dialysis.

Feb 02, 2018

Trina asked

My husband is on dialysis 3 days a week. I was wondering what is the best over the counter cough medicine that he can take?


It is always a good idea to look into medications that are safe to use while undergoing dialysis. Very commonly, dosage adjustments need to be made in those who have renal (i.e. kidney) impairment or other related issues. In terms of cough medications, there are fortunately safe options available over the counter for those on dialysis.

Safe Over The Counter Cough Medications - Dialysis

Dextromethorphan (brand name Delsym) is one of the most commonly used over the counter medications for cough and it is considered to be safe to use in those undergoing dialysis. Based on the data available, it doesn't appear that dosage adjustments are needed for those with kidney impairment. Additionally, it doesn't appears that dosage adjustments, or supplemental dosages, are needed following dialysis.

There have been no case studies linking adverse reactions in those taking dextromethorphan while on dialysis. One case report did report toxicity in one patient, but it appears the toxicity was not related to any problems with kidney function. 

In addition to dextromethorphan, the expectorant guaifenesin (brand name Mucinex) is safe to use in those with kidney impairment or undergoing dialysis. 

Below are some common brand names of cough medications that are safe to use in those undergoing dialysis:

  • Delsym (dextromethorphan)
  • Robitussin (dextromethorphan)
  • Robitussin DM (dextromethorphan & guaifenesin)
  • Mucinex (guaifenesin)
  • Mucinex DM (dextromethorphan & guaifenesin)

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