Everyone has their favorite over the counter cold medication they swear by. Maybe its what your mom always gave you, or what the pediatrician once recommended that seemed to work. Once you take medication for ADHD, though, everything changes. Here’s a list of cough and cold medications and a run down of whether they are safe to take with ADHD meds.
Cough and cold preparations formulas change with the season. The only way to be sure you aren’t taking something that interacts with your ADHD medication is to read the list of ingredients. If the list contains anything that isn’t safe, the whole formula is unsafe.
Remember that none of these medications can cure a cold. The best they can do is make you more comfortable while your body fights it off. A good over the counter medication can be just what you need to get a good night’s sleep in. That’s important when fighting off a virus, but it is never worth the risk of taking an over the counter drug that interacts with your ADHD medication.
Medications that could be dangerous.
- phenylephrine HCl/phenylephrine bitartrate: These are stimulants. Do not take with prescription stimulants as it could cause dangerous heart related side effects, seizures, or other serious problems. Stimulants also can keep you awake at night.
- oxymetazoline hydrochloride: Another stimulant, usually taken by nose spray.
- propylhexedrine: Another stimulant, usually taken by nasal inhalation.
- goldenseal: An herbal stimulant which may have additive effects with prescription stimulants.
Stimulants are safe to take with Strattera, guanfacine, and clonidine.
Medications that are probably safe.
- Acetaminophen: Does not interact with any ADHD medications. It mainly works to reduce fever and achiness.
- Chest rubs: Usually will not interact with medication taken by mouth. Young children and asthmatics should not use rubs containing menthol.
- Echinacea: An herbal remedy used to shorten the duration of a cold. No interactions with any ADHD medications.
- Guaifenisin: Does not interact with any ADHD medications and does not have any major side effects. However, its main function is to thin mucus, so it works for cough and is not helpful for runny noses.
- Honey: No interactions with medications. The amount of sugar in one dose is minimal. Be aware that some medications are honey flavored but do not actually contain honey as an active ingredient. Also, honey should never be given to children under the age of 1. Honey mainly works as a cough suppressant.
- Saline nose spray/nasal rinse: No interactions with medications, but usually needs to be dosed often, which can be a problem for kids who go to school or daycare.
Medications that are probably safe, but use with caution.
- Antihistamines (brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine maleate, diphenhydramine, doxylamine): Do not interact with ADHD meds in a dangerous way, but can cause either drowsiness or hyperactivity (especially in children). These work to dry up mucus.
- Aspirin: Does not interact with any ADHD meds. Must be taken with food. If your appetite is poor and you haven’t eaten within the past hour, skip this one until you’ve eaten. Aspirin should never be given to children who may have the flu due to the risk for Reye’s syndrome. Only treats fever and achiness.
- Dextromethorphan: A mild opiate used for cough suppression. No interactions with any ADHD medications. However, may cause constipation.
- Ibuprofen: Does not interact with any ADHD meds. May irritate stomach, though, so it must be taken with food. If your appetite is poor and you haven’t eaten within the past hour, skip this one until you’ve eaten. It works for fever and achiness.
- Melatonin: Can be found in some natural medications to promote sleep. If you are already using melatonin, be sure to adjust your dose accordingly.
- Zinc: Does not interact with any ADHD medications. The FDA encourages consumers not to use the kind that is applied in the nose due to reports of permanent loss of the sense of smell in some patients . The oral form has not had this issue. This is used to shorten the length of a cold and does not immediately control symptoms.
Inactive ingredients can also be important. While inactive ingredients rarely make a medication unsafe, they may cause some people’s ADHD symptoms to flare. The ingredients to be specifically aware of are dyes (found in nearly all popular cough and cold syrups) and gluten.
Medications that treat more symptoms usually contain more ingredients and usually can cause more problems. Minimize side effects by treating only the symptoms you have.
Among liquid preparations, natural and sugar free are more likely to not contain dyes, but always check the label first to be sure.
You can make your own honey cough syrup. Use one tbsp honey plus 1 or 2 drops of lemon juice. Dose as needed, but just remember it is sugar.
If you take guanfacine, remember to stay well hydrated while you are sick.
WebMD. Medscape for Android. Reuters Health Information. Electronic application. October 22, 2013.