Is It Safe to Mix Motrin and Robitussin? Facts and Myths
Motrin is a brand name for ibuprofen. It’s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that’s typically used to temporarily relieve minor aches and pains, fever, and inflammation.
Robitussin is the brand name for a medication containing dextromethorphan and guaifenesin. Robitussin is used to treat cough and chest congestion. It helps relieve constant coughing and also loosens congestion in your chest and throat to make it easier to cough out.
Both Motrin and Robitussin are medications often used when you have a cold or the flu.
While it’s generally agreed that you can take both medications safely together, a viral email and social media post has been circulating the internet for years warning against giving children a combination of Motrin and Robitussin because they may have a heart attack.
The post claims that children have passed away after being given both medications.
In fact, there’s no evidence to suggest that the combination of Motrin and Robitussin causes heart attacks in otherwise healthy children.
Can Motrin and Robitussin cause a heart attack in kids or adults?
As a parent, it’s perfectly normal to be concerned after reading about a potential safety issue with commonly used medications.
Rest assured, this startling rumor about a child having a heat attack after taking Motrin and Robitussin is unverified.
None of the active ingredients in Motrin (ibuprofen) or Robitussin (dextromethorphan and guaifenesin) are known to interact with each other or cause heart attacks in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t issued any warning to doctors or public health officials about a potentially dangerous interaction between these two medications.
The ingredients in these medications can also be found in other brand name medications and no warning has been issued for those medications, either.
Potential Motrin and Robitussin interactions
There are no known drug interactions between Motrin and Robitussin when they’re used together at their typical dosages.
Like most medications, Motrin and Robitussin can have side effects, especially if you use more than directed or for longer than directed.
The most common side effects of Motrin (ibuprofen) include:
- indigestion (gas, bloating, stomach pain)
The FDA has also issued a warning about an increased risk of heart attack or stroke when taking higher doses of ibuprofen or when taking it over a long period of time.
Potential side effects of Robitussin include:
- stomach pain
Most people will not experience these side effects unless they take a dose higher than what’s recommended.
Ingredients in Motrin and Robitussin
The active ingredient in Motrin products is ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. It works by blocking the production of inflammatory substances called prostaglandins, which your body typically releases in response to illness or injury.
Motrin isn’t the only brand name for drugs containing ibuprofen. Others include:
The active ingredients in the basic Robitussin are dextromethorphan and guaifenesin.
Guaifenesin is considered an expectorant. Expectorants help loosen up mucus in the respiratory tract. This in turn makes your cough more “productive” so you can cough up the mucus.
Dextromethorphan is an antitussive. It works by decreasing activity in your brain that triggers your impulse to cough, so you cough less and with less intensity. This can help you get more rest if a cough is what’s keeping you up at night.
There are other types of Robitussin that contain other active ingredients. While none have been shown to have a link to heart attacks, parents may still want to discuss with their child’s pediatrician when buying over-the-counter medications.
Precautions when taking Motrin and Robitussin together
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a cold or the flu, such as cough, fever, pain, and congestion, you can take both Motrin and Robitussin together.
Make sure to read the label and to consult with a doctor if you’re not sure about the correct dosage for you or your child.
Robitussin, including Children’s Robitussin, shouldn’t be given to children under age 4.
The FDA does have recommendations for the use of cold and cough medications in children that you should be aware of:
- Consult a doctor before giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen to children younger than 2 years old.
- Don’t give over-the-counter cough and cold medications (like Robitussin) to children younger than 4 years old.
- Avoid products containing codeine or hydrocodone as they’re not indicated for use in children younger than 18 years old.
- You can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help reduce fever, aches, and pains, but always read the label to make sure to use the correct dose. If you aren’t sure of the dose, consult with a doctor or pharmacist.
- In case of an overdose, seek immediate medical help or call 911 or Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. Symptoms of an overdose in children may include bluish lips or skin, trouble breathing or slowed breathing, and lethargy (unresponsiveness).
Motrin may not be safe for children who have other health issues like:
- kidney disease
- heart disease
- allergies to ibuprofen or any other pain or fever reducer
- high blood pressure
- stomach ulcers
- liver disease
There are no reported drug interactions or safety issues with Robitussin and Motrin that you should be concerned about, including heart attacks.
However, if you or your child take other medications or have an underlying medical condition, talk to a doctor or pharmacist before using Motrin or Robitussin to make sure they don’t alter the way other medications work.
Always talk to your doctor before giving any cough or cold medications to children under 4 years old.
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