What You Need to Know About DayQuil

Effectiveness and Considerations

DayQuil Cold & Flu is a multi-purpose medication used to treat common cold and flu symptoms. It is the daytime equivalent of NyQuil, designed to provide temporary symptom relief without making you drowsy.

DayQuil ingredients include a fever and pain reducer (acetaminophen), cough suppressant (dextromethorphan), and decongestant (phenylephrine). The medicine comes in a gel cap and liquid formulas.

This article discusses DayQuil ingredients. It also explains how to take DayQuil, its potential side effects, and its interactions.

An illustration with ingredients of DayQuil

Illustration by Jessica Olah for Verywell Health

DayQuil Ingredients

DayQuil is available in either a gel cap or syrup formulation. Both are orange-colored (in contrast to their nighttime counterpart, NyQuil, which is green). The syrup has a sweetened orange flavor with an antiseptic aftertaste.

DayQuil (regular strength) contains the following three active ingredients per 15-milliliter (mL) dose:

Different formulations of DayQuil may contain different ingredients.

Inactive Ingredients

The inactive ingredients in DayQuil include:

  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • FD&C Yellow No. 6
  • Gelatin
  • Glycerin
  • Polyethylene glycol
  • Povidone
  • Propylene glycol
  • Purified water
  • Sorbitol special
  • Titanium dioxide

Again, inactive ingredients may differ based on the specific formulation.

Recommended Dosage of DayQuil

The dosage of DayQuil varies by formulation. For the standard syrup formulation, the recommended dosage is as follows:

  • Adults and children over 12: 2 tablespoons (30 ml) every four hours with no more than six doses per 24 hours
  • Children ages six to 12: 1 tablespoon (15 ml) every four hours with no more than five doses per 24 hours

DayQuil should not be used in children under six unless under the direction of a pediatrician.

Side Effects and Considerations

While DayQuil is considered safe if used as directed, it can cause nervousness, dizziness, or sleepiness in some and should be avoided in the following circumstances:

  • DayQuil can cause liver damage in people who drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day. Do not take DayQuil with other medications containing acetaminophen. Taking excessive acetaminophen may cause liver damage even in non-drinkers.
  • Do not take DayQuil if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or have taken one in the past two weeks. MAOIs are a class of drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
  • You should stop taking DayQuil and call your healthcare provider if your cold or flu symptoms worsen, last for more than seven days, or are accompanied by a fever lasting for more than three days. The same rules apply to children if the cold or flu symptoms last more than five days.

Drug Effectiveness of DayQuil

While the acetaminophen component of DayQuil is effective in treating cold symptoms such as headache and fever, a 2010 study from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center suggested that ibuprofen is a far superior option for both adults and children.

Acetaminophen is better known by the brand name Tylenol. Ibuprofen, meanwhile, is marketed under the brand names Advil and Motrin, among others.

In terms of cough relief, the jury remains largely split. A study conducted in 2012 reviewed data from 26 randomized controlled trials and found that OTC cough formulations, including DayQuil, provided no better or worse relief than receiving no treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often can you take DayQuil?

    You can take DayQuil every four hours, with no more than six doses in 24 hours.

  • Will DayQuil make you tired?

    Even though it is marketed for daytime use, some people who take DayQuil report it makes them tired. Common side effects of DayQuil include nervousness, dizziness, or sleepiness.

  • How long does it take for DayQuil to kick in?

    It varies from person to person, but DayQuil typically starts to work to relieve symptoms in about 30 minutes.

  • Can I take DayQuil and ibuprofen?

    Yes, you can take DayQuil and ibuprofen together, but you may want to spread out the doses to provide longer symptom relief.

  • Can I take DayQuil and Tylenol?

    No, you should not take DayQuil and Tylenol together. Dayquil contains acetaminophen, which is the same medicine as Tylenol. Taking more than the recommended maximum of 3,000 mg a day can cause liver damage.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pierce CA, Voss B. Efficacy and safety of ibuprofen and acetaminophen in children and adults: a meta-analysis and qualitative review. Ann Pharmacother. 2010;44(3):489-506. doi:10.1345/aph.1M332

  2. Smith SM, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(8):CD001831. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001831.pub4

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.