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Mucinex vs. NyQuil: What is the difference?

Reading time: 7 mins
Mucinex vs. NyQuil

Mucinex and NyQuil are both very popular over-the-counter cold and flu medications, the main difference being their active ingredients. Mucinex contains guaifenesin as an active ingredient, whereas NyQuil is a combination drug containing acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine.

Both brand names have a wide variety of product formulations available to treat various symptoms. Regarding the original formulations, NyQuil treats a larger range of symptoms, including coughing, pain, fever, and allergy symptoms, whereas Mucinex is good for those who only have chest congestion.

The side effects of NyQuil include drowsiness, dry mouth, nose, or throat, dizziness, and nervousness. Side effects of Mucinex include nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, headaches, and dizziness. Both NyQuil and Mucinex could cause allergic reactions.

The precautions of taking NyQuil include sticking to the recommended dosage, as taking more than the recommended dosage risks acetaminophen-induced liver damage. Those on antidepressants or acetaminophen-containing medications should avoid NyQuil, exploring alternatives with medical guidance. Individuals with diabetes, alcohol dependence, or liver problems should consult professionals before using NyQuil. On the other hand, the precautions of taking Mucinex include informing the doctor of any respiratory issues or guaifenesin allergies. Pregnant women should consult with their doctor before taking Mucinex.

What is NyQuil?

NyQuil is a popular over-the-counter medication to relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu. It is manufactured and sold by Vicks, a popular U.S. medicinal company. NyQuill is a brand name for a combination drug that typically contains several active ingredients, including acetaminophen and dextromethorphan.

What is the other term for NyQuil?

Another term for NyQuil could refer to other product formulations, such as NyQuil Cough Relief, DayQuil Cold & Flu, etc. Vicks (Procter & Gamble) owns the brand name “NyQuil” for their cold and flu symptom relief drug.

However, numerous over-the-counter and generic options have similar active ingredients and serve a similar purpose as NyQuil. These generic alternatives may be marketed under a variety of brand names or simply labeled as “cold and flu relief” or “nighttime cold medicine,” among others.

What are the active ingredients in NyQuil?

The active ingredients in NyQuil (per 15ml) are listed below:

  • Acetaminophen 500mg 
  • Dextromethorphan HBr 15mg 
  • Doxylamine succinate 6.25mg

What is NyQuil commonly used for?

NyQuil is used to temporarily relieve cold and flu symptoms such as coughing, headaches, runny and stuffy nose, sore throat, fever, and sneezing. NyQuil also helps people who are suffering with cold symptoms to sleep through the night. Although it relieves cold and flu symptoms, according to Hilliard J in her article published in Addiction Center in 2023, it does not treat the flu or the common cold. 

Is NyQuil available in different formulations for different symptoms?

NyQuil is available in different formulations for different symptoms. NyQuil is used to treat pain/fever relief, is a cough suppressant, and can cause sleepiness. DayQuil alleviates the same symptoms as NyQuil, however DayQuil does not contain doxylamine – which causes drowsiness. DayQuil contains a non-drowsy nasal decongestant, phenylephrine. 

According to Morran in his 2014 comparison of the NyQuil Variations posted on, NyQuil Severe tackles the same symptoms but also adds the nasal decongestant, phenylephrine, into its formula. NyQuil Cough is used as a cough suppressant and does not have any ingredients for pain or fever relief.

How does NyQuil work to relieve cold and flu symptoms?

The active ingredients in NyQuil (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine) work together to relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu. According to Gerriets et al., in their 2023 article published by the National Library of Medicine, acetaminophen alters the way that the body senses pain and regulates temperature. Therefore, it helps to relieve pain and fever.

Dextromethorphan works to suppress the signals in the brain that trigger a coughing reflex, thereby relieving coughing symptoms. Lastly, doxylamine succinate works by blocking histamine and acetylcholine, a natural substance that the human body produces. According to WebMD, this effect helps to relieve allergy/cold symptoms, including watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing.

Can NyQuil be used for cough relief?

woman drinking pill

Yes, NyQuil can be used for cough relief. The ingredient dextromethorphan is used to temporarily suppress the coughing reflex in the body, ensuring an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Vicks also has a special formulation called NyQuil Cough that especially targets the cough reflex.

What are the side effects of NyQuil?

The side effects of NyQuil are listed below.

  • Drowsiness: A person might experience drowsiness due to the presence of doxylamine which should subdue after a few hours.
  • Dry mouth, nose, or throat: A person might also have a dry mouth, nose, or throat caused by doxylamine.
  • Blurred vision: According to the National Library of Medicine, doxylamine can also cause blurred vision.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: Both doxylamine or dextromethorphan can cause dizziness or lightheadedness..
  • Nervousness or excitability: Dextromethorphan can cause a person to feel nervous or excitable.
  • Nausea or an upset stomach: Dextromethorphan can also cause nausea or an upset stomach.
  • Severe side effects: Hallucinations, irregular heartbeats, and seizures are severe side effects, and medical attention should be sought immediately.

What are the precautions of NyQuil?

The precautions of NyQuil are listed below.

  • Correct dosage: NyQuil should not be taken more than the recommended dosage on the packaging. Regularly taking too much NyQuil could cause liver damage from the acetaminophen. 
  • Alcohol: Alcohol consumption should be abstained from while taking NyQuil as this could worsen possible side effects, according to Jill Seladi-Schulman in her 2022 article, Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking NyQuil?, published by Healthline.
  • Antidepressants or acetaminophen medicine: People who are taking antidepressants or any other medication that contains acetaminophen should avoid NyQuil altogether. They should discuss alternative cold and flu medication with a doctor or pharmacist.
  • Allergic reaction: A person can have an allergic reaction to NyQuil. They will exhibit signs such as a rash, hives, difficulty swallowing or breathing, itchiness, and swelling of the throat.

Are there any age restrictions for using NyQuil?

Yes, according to Vicks- the manufacturer, NyQuil is not recommended for children younger than 12 years. Although NyQuil does offer an alternative formulation called Children’s NyQuil, which can be taken by children aged 6 to 11. Children aged 6 to 4 should not use NyQuil unless specifically directed by a doctor, and children under four should not use NyQuil, according to DailyMed. Cold and flu medicine has not been proven to be safe or effective in children younger than six years old.

Can NyQuil be safely taken with other medications?

Yes, NyQuil can be taken safely with most other medications. However, there are certain medications that may interact with NyQuil. Consult a pharmacist or doctor when taking NyQuil with sleeping medication, narcotic pain medication (such as opioids), antidepressants, muscle relaxants and antihistamines (oral or topically applied), according to WebMD. When taken with NyQuil, certain MAO inhibitors may have dangerous (potentially deadly) interactions. 

Is it possible to get addicted to NyQuil if you use it frequently?

Yes, it is possible to get addicted to NyQuil if it is used frequently over a long period of time. NyQuil is formulated to be used for the short-term, not long term. A person may become reliant on NyQuil or form a NyQuil addiction if they start to depend on it to help them fall asleep or feel as though they must take it daily.

How quickly does NyQuil start working after taking it?

NyQuil takes about 30 minutes to take effect in the human body, according to It will start to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, but it might also cause drowsiness within 30 minutes, so it’s best not to drive or operate heavy machinery after taking NyQuil. The effects of NyQuil also typically last 4 to 6 hours.

What is Mucinex?

different color pills

Mucinex is an over-the-counter medication that reduces chest congestion caused by excessive mucus in the respiratory tract.  Chest congestion can occur as a result of a common cold, the flu, or chronic bronchitis. Mucinex is the brand name for a medication that contains the active ingredient guaifenesin, which is found in many cough and cold medications, according to It comes in various formulations, each designed to target a specific set of symptoms. Some of these include Mucinex DM, Mucinex D, and Mucinex Children’s Chest Congestion.

What is the other term for Mucinex?

There is no other term or alternative name for Mucinex. The specific brand name Mucinex is owned by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. for their popular expectorant drug for chest congestion relief. However, there are various other generic expectorant medications that contain the main ingredient guaifenesin. These usually state “chest congestion relief” or similar on their packaging.

What are the active ingredients in Mucinex?

The active ingredient in Mucinex (per tablet) is listed below:

  • Guaifenesin 600 mg

What is Mucinex commonly used for?

Mucinex is typically used to help loosen short-term congestion in the chest and throat from the common cold, infections, or allergies, according to Mucinex is also used for the temporary relief of coughs caused by the common cold or bronchitis.

Is Mucinex available in different formulations for different symptoms?

Mucinex is available in different formulations for different symptoms. The original Mucinex only contains guaifenesin, which clears up congestion in the chest and airway. Mucinex D contains guaifenesin and pseudoephedrine, the latter being a nasal decongestant to treat a stuffy nose.

According to, another formulation is Mucinex DM, which has guaifenesin and dextromethorphan, the latter of which is a cough suppressant.

How does Mucinex work to relieve cold and flu symptoms?

The active ingredient of Mucinex, guaifenesin, works by thinning the mucus accumulation in the air channel, making it easier to cough and clear any congestion, according to MedlinePlus. This relieves symptoms of chest congestion and makes breathing easier for people who have respiratory problems caused by a cold or flu.

Can Mucinex be used for cough relief?

Yes, Mucinex can be used for cough relief. The active ingredient – guaifenesin – thins mucus stuck in the respiratory tract, making it easier to cough up phlegm, according to Another formulation of the product, Mucinex DM can also be used to relieve coughing as it contains dextromethorphan. This ingredient works by decreasing activity in the brain that triggers a coughing reflex, thus relieving coughing symptoms.

What are the side effects of Mucinex?

The side effects of Mucinex are listed below.

  • Nausea, vomiting, or an upset stomach: If you take Mucinex in higher than recommended doses, you may experience nausea, vomiting, or stomach upset.
  • Headache or dizziness: Mucinex can cause mild headaches or dizziness, which should subdue after a few hours.
  • Allergic reaction: Mucinex can cause an allergic reaction, which would manifest in symptoms including hives, breathing difficulties, and swelling of the face, lip, tongue, or throat. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these side effects.

What are the precautions of Mucinex?

The precautions of Mucinex are listed below.

  • Guaifenesin allergy: A doctor or pharmacist should be informed if the patient is allergic to guaifenesin or any other drug.
  • History of respiratory issues: A doctor should be informed if the patient has any history of respiratory problems.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women should only use Mucinex when absolutely necessary.

Are there any age restrictions for using Mucinex?

doctor showing a bottle of pills

Yes, Mucinex tablets/capsules should not be given to children younger than 12 years old, according to WebMD. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 could take the Mucinex Children’s Chest Congestion medication. Children aged 4 to 6 can be given Mucinex if advised by a doctor or pharmacist.

Can Mucinex be safely taken with other medications?

Yes, Mucinex is relatively safe to take with other medications. However, there are certain drugs that it might interact with, causing a decrease in the effectiveness of Mucinex. These drugs include caffeine, diet medications, antidepressants like amitriptyline or imipramine, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors like isocarboxazid, phenelzine, or selegiline.

Is it possible to get addicted to Mucinex if you use it frequently?

Yes, if a person uses Mucinex DM (guaifenesin and dextromethorphan) excessively, it can become addictive. Even though dextromethorphan is not physically addictive at recommended doses, it can become addictive if taken in large amounts or administered through alternative methods like snorting or injecting, as warned by American Addiction Centers in 2023 in an article entitled ‘Dextromethorphan (DXM) Abuse Symptoms, Side Effects, and Addiction Treatment’.

How quickly does Mucinex start working after taking it?

Mucinex should start working within 30 minutes of oral administration, but it may take up to two days of regular dosage to fully experience its effects. However, Mucinex comes in various formulations and forms, including capsules, extended-release tablets, and syrups, each of which will have a different reaction time in each individual.