Can You Take Cough Drops While Pregnant? Or Is It Dangerous?

As if all the pain and hardship that comes with pregnancy wasn’t enough already (morning sickness, anyone?), you’re now dealing with a nasty cold making your throat feel sore or allergies that are making you consider taking cough drops to help with relief.

After all, having a sore throat during pregnancy is a pretty common occurrence for a different number of reasons.

While you would usually take cough drops without thinking twice about it in normal circumstances, you can’t exactly do that at this specific point in time because you’re pregnant and have baby’s safety to consider.

So, being the responsible mother-to-be you are, you ask yourself “Is it safe for me to take cough drops while pregnant? Or will I be jeopardizing my baby’s wellbeing?”.

Can You Take Cough Drops While Pregnant?

As of this writing, there’s still no clear “yes” or “no” answer to this question, as there are many factors that come into play and the answer may differ from one woman to another.

At first, you would think that a cough drop is one of the most harmless stuff you could consume during pregnancy. I mean let’s be real here, cough drops are sweets we allow to dissolve in our mouths to help soothe and lubricate our sore and irritated throats when we have a cold or the flue.

You do have to remember, though, that these small sweets are medicated, and you can’t consume just about anything medicated during pregnancy when you’re still caring for a baby that’s developing inside your womb.

So, even though you can easily get cough drops over the counter and use them while pregnant without needing a prescription from your doctor, it’s best that you talk to your doctor before taking any cough drops so they can assess whether it’s safe for you to do so or whether any risks exist.

The Active Ingredient Dilemma

Because not all active ingredients in cough drops have been tested yet, it’s still not known for a fact whether or not they have any negative side effects on pregnancies.

For example, let’s have a look at the active ingredient found in some of the most common cough drops we all know about and use when needed – menthol1.

Even though menthol is a relatively safe active ingredient (in normal circumstances) that works on reducing irritation in your throat when you have a nasty case of cough, not many tests have been conducted yet to see whether or not menthol use is safe during pregnancy2.

Keep in mind that you’re free to get either mentholated cough drops (ones where menthol is the active ingredient) and non-mentholated cough drops (ones where menthol is not the active ingredient).

The following is a list of some of the most common active ingredients found in popular over the counter cough drops today.

  • Benzocaine
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Honey
  • Menthol
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pectin
  • Spear mint
  • Zinc gluconate glycine

Other (Inactive) Ingredients

Besides the main active ingredient found in a cough drop medication, there are also many different inactive ingredients that go into producing it as well.

For example, many of the popular cough drop brands you can get over the counter today contain a whole host of different herbs as part of their ingredients list.

Even though most (if not all) of these herbs are natural herbs, not enough tests have been conducted to determine their effect on pregnancy.

Also, sometimes a cough drop could contain 100% natural herbs that are fine for pregnant women to take when consumed each on their own, but ones that pose danger on the development of your baby when combined together.

Have your doctor take a look at the ingredients list of a cough medication you want to take, and they’ll be able to tell you whether these herbs are safe for use during pregnancy or not.

The following is a list of some of the most common inactive ingredients found in popular over the counter cough drops today.

  • Elder
  • Horehound
  • Hyssop
  • Lemon balm
  • Linden flowers
  • Mallow
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Wild thyme

Which Active Ingredients In Cough Drops Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Because there’s too few studies centered around the use of menthol during pregnancy, ask your doctor about the safety of using a cough drop with menthol as its active ingredient to stay as safe as possible.

With that being said, there have still not been any medical reports of negative side effects on pregnancies in women who consumed cough drops with menthol as the active ingredient.

On the other hand, drops that contain the cough suppressant dextromethorphan and guaifenesin as the active ingredients are widely considered safe to use during pregnancy. (You should still ideally double check with your doctor about them, though).

Even though some scientific studies that date back to the late 1990’s have found a possible correlation between the use of dextromethorphan and birth defects in chick embryos, these findings have still not been proven to be applicable in the case of human beings.

Scientific studies that were performed on human beings to see the effect of dextromethorphan on pregnancies have not found any increase in the risk of birth defects in babies whose mothers took dextromethorphan during pregnancy.

Popular Options

The following is a list for some of the most popular cough drops that experts deem safe to use when needed during pregnancy.

  • Cepacol Sore Throat and Cough
  • Chloraseptic Sore Throat and Cough
  • Halls Menthol Cough Suppressant
  • Halls Menthol Oral Anesthetic Drops
  • Ricola Cough Suppressant
  • Vicks Menthol Cough Suppressant

Other Solutions

If you’re trying to relieve your cough during pregnancy, you don’t really have to jump right into taking cough drops straight away, at least not until you’ve tried the basics first and your condition still hasn’t improved ever since.

So, ask yourself the following questions first:

  • Am I drinking enough fluids that my body needs to be getting on a day to day basis for me to recover?
  • Am I drinking enough water?
  • Have I tried gargling with salt water?
  • Am I drinking enough hot tea with the usual stuff like lemon, ginger, honey or cayenne pepper that help relieve a cough?
  • Am I getting enough sleep during the night to help my body recover?
  • Am I eating a nutritious diet and meeting all my vitamins and minerals requirements for the day?

An Important Note For Pregnant Women With Diabetes

Many cough drops contain specific ingredients that pregnant women with diabetes should not be coming into contact with in any way, shape or form – such as corn syrup and other sweeteners.

If you have any of type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes, or even if you’re just at risk of developing diabetes, these ingredients are known to cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels, which will only make your diabetic (or pre-diabetic) condition worse off than it already is.


  1. Pregnancy and OTC Cough, Cold, and Analgesic Preparations. Accessed June 18, 2019.
  2. Is guaifenesin safe during pregnancy? Accessed June 18, 2019.

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Medically Reviewed By: Christine Traxler M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Christine Traxler M.D.

Christine Traxler MD is a retired family practice physician and graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986. She has worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades.

She has written several books on medical topics, and has extensive experience caring for women of childbearing age, women in pregnancy, and menopausal women.

As a writer and editor, she specializes in writing coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers, with a predominance of writing on general medical topics and premedical scientific topics.

She has more than a decade of experience in the writing field, having written books on dermatology, medical assisting, nursing, and pregnancy.

She has written thousands of articles for laypeople and professionals alike on a variety of medical subjects.

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