Understanding Cold Medicine

Have a cold? (Hab a cold?) Intimidated by the drug store? Here’s a bilingual guide to getting cold medicine in Japan.

First, while you’re treating a cold with medicine, remember to take preventative measures to keep from spreading the cold to others or making it worse. In addition to the ones listed in the link, you should wash out Nalgene water-bottles or thermoses you use with hot, soapy water. (Can’t hurt to do your laundry, too.)

On the wall of OTC medicines, look for “General Cold Medicine”(sougoukaze gusuri or just kaze gusuri).

Cold Medicine

By the powers of Western medicine and Chinese herbs combined…

The kind I got was Wダブル配合 ダイヤル3かぜ課料 (W daburu haigo daiyaru san kaze karyuu), or W Double Composition Level-3 Cold Granules. This particular medicine promises you the combined powers of 漢方 (kanpou), Chinese herbs, AND 西洋薬 (seiyou gusuri), Western medicine, as a 総合感冒薬 (sougoukanbou gusuri), a general common cold/influenza medicine.

If you’re in a pinch, you can usually guess at what the medicine targets by looking at the picture on the box. This medicine’s box has stars over the forehead, nose, and neck of the figure on the box. The front of the box lists the target symptoms: 発熱 (hatsunetsu), fever); 鼻水 (hanamizu), runny nose (literally nose-water, yum); and 筋肉の痛み (kinniku no itami), muscle pain. On the back of the box, it lists other targeted symptoms: 鼻づまり/鼻つまり (hana-zumari or hana-tsumari), stuffy nose; くしゃみ (kushami), sneezing; のどの痛み (nodo no itami), sore throat; せき (seki), cough; たん (tan), phlegm/post-nasal drip; 悪寒 (okan); chills; and 関節の痛み (kansetsu no itami), joint-pain.

This is a long post, so click the link for usage guidelines, a list of ingredients, and my experience taking the medicine.

How do you take this medicine? The 用法(youhou) (usage) instructions for the medicine state that the recommended dosage (用量 youryou) for adults (成人 seijin) over 15 years of age (15歳以上 juugosai ijou) is 1 packet (1包 ippou), 3 times a day (1日3回) within 30 minutes of a meal ( 食後30分以内に). Do the regular kampou method of putting the medicine on the back of your tongue and washing it down with water.

Twelve doses for 1365 yen.

What’s in this?
Acetaminophen (アセトアミノフェン), which reduces fever and acts as a pain killer
Dextromethorphan ( デキストメトルファン ), for cough suppression
Chlorpheniramine  D−クロルフェニラミンアレイン, for runny noses
Potassium guaiacolsulfonate/ guaifenesin  ( グアヤコールスルホン酸カリウム), to clear the lungs of mucus
Riboflavin sodium phosphate (リボフラビンリン酸エステルナトリウム), vitamin B2; extra vitamins to fight the cold
dl-Methylephedrine hydrochloride ( dl-メチルエフェドリン塩酸塩散), for cough suppression
Chinese herbs, for various cold-related things (seriously, that’s what it says)*

Let’s compare this medicine to Dayquil, which is illegal in Japan but popular in the States. Dayquil has 325 mg of acetaminophen per capsule; this medicine has 300 mg of acetaminophen per packet. With Dayquil, you’d probably take 6 capsules a day, which would get you 1950 mg of acetaminophen; with the 3 doses of Dial 3, you’d only get 900 mg per day. So, no, it’s not as strong.

My experience:
The medicine didn’t make me drowsy–it fact, I was quite genki after taking a dose. It definitely helped with the symptoms, especially the runny nose and the cough. I took all twelve doses over the course of four days and I was feeling well enough to stop taking medicine after finishing the box. Your mileage may vary based on how you react to cold medicines, but I was quite pleased with this one.

I hope this information will be useful in your searches for cold medicines that work for you!

お大事に! (odaiji ni!) Get better soon!

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and spent a very long time sounding out drug names for this post.

*柴胡桂枝湯エキス: Essence of saikokeishitou, a combination of herbs to reduce fever, pain, and inflammation, used for respiratory and stomach-related illness. Contains mainly 柴胡 (saiko), Bupleuri root; and 桂枝(桂皮) (keihi), cinnamon; also contains 黄ごん(ougon), Scutellaria baicalensis (Baikal skullcap);半夏 (hange), Chinese crow-dipper (Pinellia ternata) ;芍薬 (shakuyaku), Chinese peony; 人参(ninjin), Asian ginger; 甘草(kannjio), licorice, 生姜(shouga or shoukyuu), ginger; and 大棗(taishou), jujube or Chinese date.


6 thoughts on “Understanding Cold Medicine

  1. This was such an informative article! Thank you for writing it. Could you also give me suggestions for cold medicines for children (ages 1-3)? It’s so hard to read the labels!

    Thank you again!

  2. First, as I’m not a doctor, I’m going to say that, for a very young child, going to a doctor is probably better than reading my column.

    Second, I’m going to recommend having a bilingual friend translate the specific medicine you buy.

    However, to answer your question and give you some vocabulary–
    There are kids’ medicines to treat specific symptoms (see the translations above) : http://www.lion.co.jp/ja/seihin/category/22.htm

    The attachments listed on these pages are the treatment information (this is a pdf of the syrup):
    For this medicine, you can look on p. 2 of the attachment for age information.

    年齢 (nenrei) age
    歳 or 才 (sai) means years old
    Xヶ月 is X months old
    以上 (ijou) is over (as in “over 1 year old”)
    未満 (miman) is under (age) (as in ” under 3 years old”)

    So, 1歳以上3歳未満 is “Children 1-3 years old”

    一回量 (ikkai ryou): one dosage (as in, one dosage is 7.5 ml)

    1日3回 (see post) three times (回 kai) a day (1日 ichinichi)

    服用しないこと (hukuyou shinai koto) DO NOT USE / ADMINISTER (as in, “For children under three months old, do not administer this medicine.”)

    The information pages have an illustration of how to fill the cap, too.

  3. Thank you so much for the information my son is studying in Japan and has gotten a cold and flu and wanted me to send medicine over but so confusing on what is illeagl to send so this was very helpful do you have anything for the flu

Something on your mind? Leave some comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s