No, milk doesn’t make a poison when mixed with cough syrup

27 February 2020
What was claimed

Drinking a mixture of milk and cough syrup is poisonous.

Our verdict


A post on Facebook shared over 5,000 times claims that mixing milk and cough syrup produces a poison and that a mother had accidentally killed her four children by giving them this concoction.

This is untrue. There is no evidence that mixing milk with cough syrup produces a poison as fact checkers at AFP Singapore also found.

In some cases, the NHS actually suggests children could consume milk straight after paracetamol syrup to hide the taste. It also says they can swallow paracetamol tablets with milk.

However, it is important to follow the specific dosage, age recommendations and any advice on what food and drink can be consumed whilst taking it on all medicines.

There’s no evidence that a mother accidentally killed her children this way either, though the story may have its origins in a real case. In 2001, a babysitter in the United States was convicted for the manslaughter of a three month-old baby girl after giving her a lethal dose of children’s Benadryl.

The babysitter had mixed the medicine  into breast milk, but the autopsy revealed the cause of death to be intoxication by diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, and not a substance created when it was mixed with milk.

Guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says that cough and cold medicines containing diphenhydramine should not be given to children under six.

There is some evidence that milk reduces the efficacy of certain drugs, specifically antibiotics. But again, this is not to say that milk produces a poison when consumed with any sort of drug.

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