What Happens If I Swallowed A Cough Drop?

Share this article:

After swallowing a cough drop, you should stay hydrated and rest as the cough drop gets absorbed in your system. Most people don’t have any harmful reaction from swallowing cough drops. Although, if you get any adverse reactions minutes after accidentally ingesting the cough drop, immediately go to the nearest ER.

In my third trimester with my twins, I had a severe sore throat and recurring cough. Since my doctor couldn’t recommend strong medication, I was on cough drops to ease my sore throat.

One day, I had a cough drop early in the morning. I was also feeling nauseous and was hoping that the menthol taste would help. As my mind struggled with upcoming nausea, I accidentally swallowed the whole cough drop.

I was in panic mode and immediately called my doctor. I was freaking out so badly, but he calmed me down and told me to drink a lot of water and rest. He assured me the components of the cough drop were not harmful if I swallowed only one.

My doctor assured me that the babies and I would be okay, but I had to be careful. If the tablet had taken the wrong respiratory track route, I would’ve been in danger.

If you’re reading this article, you might have swallowed a cough drop too. So let’s go over everything so I can help put your mind to ease.

So, what ingredients make up a cough drop?

The ingredients typically include peppermint, menthol mixed with other ingredients, eucalyptus, and other mint oils. For a tablet to be harmful, it has to contain pure menthol, which isn’t the case for cough drops.

Most cough drop brands use honey or pectin for coating. These products don’t pose any danger. For a person to get a menthol overdose, they need to have taken 1000 mg or simply one gram.

For context, you’d need to swallow 6,800 cough drops. Knowing this now, swallowing one cough drop will not cause any issue to an otherwise healthy person.

In what scenarios does cough drop cause a medical concern?

Although cough drops may not be harmful, it might be possible to get a bad reaction in the following instances:

1. If you get an allergic reaction

Sometimes people may be allergic to the components used in making the cough drop. In such instances, your body may react differently. The symptoms you may get from being allergic to cough drops include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart palpitations
  • Hallucinations
  • Blood may find its way to the urine
  • Dizziness
  • Coma

If you get a severe allergic reaction, you may experience severe symptoms like seizures, convulsions, and coma. These reactions may also happen to someone who immediate medical attention resulting from cough drop allergy.

See your doctor immediately once you experience any of the following symptoms after swallowing or taking the cough drop. Some reactions may be life-threatening.

2. If you eat too many cough drops

An older man is taking a cough drop to help with his sore throat.

Every medicine has its prescription. Too many cough drops may cause an overdose reaction or menthol poisoning. A person with either of the two will show symptoms like:

Cough drop overdose will cause:

Menthol poisoning may lead to:

  • Difficulty while walking
  • Skin lesions
  • Disorientation
  • Memory loss
  • Oral ulcers
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Skin lesions

After taking too many cough drops for a long time, one may develop a condition resulting from sorbitol content in some cough drops. When you get too much sorbitol in your system, it may trigger conditions like diabetes and obesity.

One time, a man took two bags containing menthol cough drops for two years. He took these cough drops every day for two consecutive years. He experienced severe medical conditions like:

  • Muscle aches
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Ataxia
  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty walking
  • Skin lesions
  • Muscle cramps and pains
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flatulence
  • Weight loss

All these symptoms resulted from overdosage or inappropriate use of cough drops. The man, however, survived after he withdrew his cough drops misuse.

3. If the cough drops pass through the respiratory tract

Sometimes, cough drops may not go through the food pipe but the respiratory tract. When the cough drop or a part of it goes to the windpipe, it may make its way to the central air pathway or lungs. The presence of foreign bodies in the airways or lungs causes aspiration pneumonia.

This condition may be dangerous, especially if the tablet doesn’t come out. You may even lose your life in the process.

4. When a pet (like your dog) consumes the cough drop

This drug may cause less harm or no harm in humans, especially if only one tablet accidentally gets swallowed. But to pets, especially dogs, it may be a whole new story. So if your pet ingests cough drops, check the ingredients of the cough drop first.

According to the animal poison control center, elements including eucalyptus oil, sugar menthol, flavors, and colors, pose a threat to your pet’s health. In addition, most pets develop gastrointestinal problems from consuming these cough drops.

Some cough drops may contain xylitol. This content causes hypoglycemia and liver damage to most dogs and cats. The wrappers may also cause harm to most pets. Small pets may even choke on cough drops and may cause death.

If you realize that your pet has swallowed cough drops, it will immediately help rush them to the veterinary doctor.

The table below summarizes some of the symptoms of cough drop allergies, overdoses, or poisoning in people and pets.

Symptoms of cough drop effects on people:Symptomatic conditions due to cough drop in pets:
Muscle achesHypoglycemia
DiabetesGastrointestinal upsetting
NauseaThroat numbness
VomitingMouth numbing
DiarrheaRespiratory difficulty
ComaCough drop obstruction in small-sized pets


What happens if you swallow cough drops?

These drugs will pose no health risk if swallowed in small amounts unless they cause an allergic reaction or go through the respiratory tract.

How long does it take for a cough drop to dissolve?

It may take up to about thirty to forty-five minutes for cough drops to dissolve.

Are you supposed to swallow a cough drop?

No, cough drops should be left to dissolve in the mouth and relief you of sore throat or flu-like symptoms. You may swallow the saliva after it has dissolved.

Final thoughts

Cough syrup can cause mild to serious health issues. So, according to your health condition and symptoms, you should see your doctor. Though people with some health issues like diabetes, nausea, diarrhea, and those who are having muscle aches get more affected by it. So, the best way is to see your doctor in such a condition.

If you have the same condition, you can follow the precautions, take a lot of water, or consult your doctor immediately.

Share this article:

Was this article helpful?
Nudrat Naheed
Hi, I am Nudrat, The Heart And Brain author, IR student, and painter. Writing about health fascinates me because it helps me to explore a new healthy routine and share it with others. I write primarily about general health, pregnancy, postpartum, and allergies here. If you don't find me writing, I'm busy painting or reading on global politics.

We’re proud to be a team of writers who are truly passionate about all things health.

Coming together from all parts of the world, we share a common goal of helping serve many with our comprehensive research and clear writing style. Learn more.

Nutrition & Diet