When you’re sick, a persistent cough can make you feel even worse. While it doesn’t treat the cause of the cough, many people eat cough drops to calm it and soothe a sore throat that may accompany it. But how many cough drops is too many to take, and can too many make you even sicker?
How do cough drops work?
Cough drops, or throat lozenges, contain ingredients that soothe your throat, which helps reduce pain from a sore throat and curbs coughing.
How many cough drops is too many?
Cough drops are intended to be eaten occasionally when you’re feeling sick. While there’s no solid number on how many cough drops are too many, consider some of the ingredients. Cough drops tend to contain a decent amount of sugar — if you eat a significant number over a period of time, you could begin to gain weight. Also, people with health conditions like diabetes should be careful since cough drops can lead to blood sugar spikes.
Another ingredient in cough drops to consider is sorbitol, a sugar substitute found mainly in sugar-free varieties. Consuming too much sorbitol can have a laxative effect, including:
- Mild to severe diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Unintended weight loss
What happens if you eat too many cough drops?
Some cough drops also contain menthol, which targets nasal congestion; however, too much menthol can worsen your cough, which is the opposite intent of eating cough drops. Other symptoms you might experience from eating too many cough drops include:
- Stomach pain
- Rapid heart rate
Also, whether menthol cough drops are safe for consumption during pregnancy is unknown. It would be best if you spoke to your doctor before taking any cough drops while pregnant.
Can you overdose on cough drops?
While it’s possible, it’s unlikely to overdose on cough drops. When we say “overdose,” we’re referring to ingesting too much of the menthol in them. However, the lethal dose of menthol is one gram per kilogram of body weight, and one cough drop typically contains about three to 10 milligrams. This means you’d have to consume thousands of cough drops within a limited timeframe to experience menthol poisoning.
When to seek medical care
Even though it’s unlikely to overdose on cough drops, there may be other reasons for seeking medical advice. First, if you’re eating cough drops for symptom relief such as sore throat or cough that don’t resolve within seven days or get worse, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider.
Additionally, while rare, some people have reported allergic reactions to ingredients in cough drops. Call 911 if you see any side effects related to an allergic reaction, such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden rash or hives
- Swelling in your face, tongue, throat or lips
And in the unlikely (but still possible) event of an overdose, call 911. If the situation doesn’t appear to be an emergency, you can call the national toll-free Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.
So, can you eat too many cough drops?
If your throat is hurting and cough drops are helping relieve that pain, the risk of taking cough drops is minimal. You would have to take thousands of drops to have a remote chance of hurting yourself — with this in mind, though, there is no reason to consume more than necessary.