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Are Cough Syrups Safe?

May 2, 2022   Return

Cough syrups are one of the most commonly prescribed medicines in clinics and hospitals. They are generally safe for most children above the age of 6 years old as well as for adults.

“Generally” safe? Does that mean…

Some cough syrups contain ingredients that can have a psychoactive impact on our mind – altering how our brain normally works (affecting our mood, etc) – when taken at much higher doses than recommended. Such ingredients include dextromethorphan, codeine and promethazine. So, it is important to follow the prescribed dosage carefully and stop taking the cough syrup when you are feeling better.

Safety through regulations

Cough syrups, like all other medicines, are produced through a closely regulated process – from the manufacturer to the consumer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and many national governments, including ours, follow established Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and quality control. Thus, with the regulated process, cough syrups have consistent quality and are safe for consumption.

The Malaysian National Medicines Policy (NMP) states, “Only safe, efficacious and quality medicines that meet approved standards and specifications shall be registered and made available for sale and use by all consumers in Malaysia.” By setting down such regulations, the Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) ensures that “medicines marketed for consumers are safe, effective and of quality, and to promote quality use of medicines to meet the health needs of the nation.” This includes cough syrups, naturally.

Each registered product sold throughout Malaysia has two main features on its packaging – the registration number and genuine hologram sticker. The registration number starts with ‘MAL’ followed by eight numbers and ends with the letter T, A or X, which indicates traditional medicines, scheduled poisons (prescription products) and non-scheduled poisons (over-the-counter products), respectively. The authenticity of the hologram sticker can be checked using the Meditag hologram decoder, which should be available at the pharmacy.
So, you can rest assured that cough syrups available in your neighbourhood pharmacy or convenience store are safe for consumption. All you need to do is look out for the MOH registration code and hologram sticker when you buy cough syrups.

Take Your Own Precaution (insert in textbox)

When taking several medicines for your cough and cold, make sure your read the labels properly. This is to avoid taking medicines containing the same ingredients, which may lead to an overdose. If you are unsure, always check with your doctor or pharmacist.

If you have a medical condition like heart disease or high blood pressure, do check with your doctor before using any cough syrup


Ministry of Health. Available at

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available at

WebMD. Available at

World Health Organization. Available at

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