A Symptom-Based Guide to Over-the-Counter Cold Medicines in Japan

Nov 20, 2023

A Symptom-Based Guide to Over-the-Counter Cold Medicines in Japan

medicines in japan

In addition to our most-read Ultimate Guide to Household Medicine feature, we’ve also come up with a symptom-based guide to over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine in Japan that offers relief from various cold symptoms.

This guide delves into the specific symptoms of the common cold and the available OTC treatments, focusing on the active ingredients in these medications.


1. What is the Common Cold?

medicines in japan

The common cold is a viral infection primarily caused by rhinoviruses. It affects the upper respiratory tract, leading to nasal congestion, sore throat, coughing, and sometimes fever.

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2. Incubation Period of the Common Cold

The incubation period—the time between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms—typically ranges from 1 to 3 days.

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3. How Long Does the Common Cold Last?

The duration of a cold can vary, but most often, symptoms persist for about 7-14 days. However, some symptoms might linger longer, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.

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4. How Long Will You Be Contagious?

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Individuals are usually contagious for about 2-4 days after the onset of symptoms. However, this can vary based on the individual’s immune system and the specific virus causing the cold.

Some people will stay contagious for up to two weeks, but usually, they are less contagious after 4 days of the initial symptoms.

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5. Early symptoms

medicines in japan

The early symptoms of a common cold often include:

  • Runny or Stuffy Nose: Nasal congestion or blockage.
  • Sore Throat: Irritation or pain in the throat.
  • Cough: Dry or productive cough.
  • Fever: Increased body temperature, sometimes accompanied by chills.
  • General Discomfort: Fatigue, headache, and body aches.

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6. Treatment to take

To address these common cold symptoms, OTC medications are readily available in Japan, each tailored to specific discomforts. When you buy cold medicines in Japan, try to look for these active ingredients:

Active ingredients for runny or stuffy nose:

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  • 塩酸プソイドエフェドリン (Pseudoephedrine)
  • クロルフェニラミンマレイン酸塩 (Chlorphenamine)
  • グリチルリチン酸ジカリウム (Dipotassium glycyrrhizinate)

These ingredients work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages, reducing swelling and congestion.

Active ingredients for sore throat:

  • メントール (Menthol)
  • ポビドンヨード (Povidone-Iodine)

These ingredients have a soothing effect and can provide relief from throat discomfort.

Active ingredients for cough:

  • アンブロキソール塩酸塩 (Ambroxol)
    An expectorant that helps loosen and thin mucus, making it easier to cough up.
  • ジヒドロコデインリン酸塩 (Dihydrocodeine Phosphate)
    An opioid-based cough suppressant that reduces the urge to cough.
  • L-カルボシステイン (Carbocisteine)
    An expectorant that works by thinning and loosening mucus in the airways.

Active ingredients for fever:

To reduce fever, OTC medications in Japan typically include アセトアミノフェン (Acetaminophen) or イブプロフェン (Ibuprofen).

These medications help lower body temperature and alleviate fever-related symptoms.

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7. Codeine is banned in other countries

It’s essential to note that codeine is a common ingredient in cough medications in some countries, including in Japan, but is banned or heavily regulated in others due to its potential for misuse and dependence.

In Japan, codeine is not commonly found in OTC cough medicines, but codeine-derived active ingredients such as dihydrocodeine phosphate can sometimes be found in some OTC cold medicines.

Just in case you plan to carry these cold medicines back home, please check the regulations on codeine before to avoid any troubles.

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8. Our recommendations for OTC cold medicines

  • Pabron Ace Pro-X powder

Ref. : catalog-taisho.com

Unlike tablets or capsules, it’s easier for our body to absorb powdered medicines, hence, you’ll feel faster results than when taking tablet or capsule medicines.

What we like about this medicine is that it has all the active ingredients needed to cure the cold.

This works very fast, so you might want to take it very early as it can prevent the symptoms from worsening.

Active ingredients included: 塩酸プソイドエフェドリン (Pseudoephedrine), クロルフェニラミンマレイン酸塩 (Chlorphenamine), イブプロフェン (Ibuprofen), アンブロキソール塩酸塩 (Ambroxol), ジヒドロコデインリン酸塩 (Dihydrocodeine Phosphate), L-カルボシステイン (Carbocisteine).


  • Contac Sekidome W
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Ref. : contac.jp

This medicine has become our favorite cough suppressant for the last two years, as it works effectively and is easy to drink.

Unlike other cold medicines, which usually are taken three times a day with meals, you can take this medicine twice a day only, in the morning after breakfast, and before you go to bed.

What we like the most about this cough suppressant is that it doesn’t contain any caffeine or codeine at all.

Active ingredients included: デキストロメトルファン (Dextromethorphan), ジプロフィリン (Dyphylline).


  • Lulu Attack NX
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Ref. : daiichisankyo-hc.co.jp

Nasal congestion, which usually causes a stuffy and runny nose, is the early symptom of a cold.

If you don’t treat it properly, your cold symptoms will keep worsening, as a stuffy and runny nose eventually will cause a sore throat and cough.

Lulu Attack NX is our favorite OTC medicine when it comes to relieving nasal congestion, and this medicine contains a unique active ingredient that fights nasal congestion effectively.

Active ingredients included: ベラドンナ総アルカロイド (Belladonna total alkaloid), クレマスチンフマル酸塩 (Clemastine fumarate), ブロムヘキシン塩酸塩 (bromhexine)


  • Pabron Sekidome Eki
medicines in japan

Ref. : catalog-taisho.com

If you have a severe cough as one of your cold symptoms, you might want to drink a cough suppressant syrup.

Pabron has one of the best cough suppressant syrups, and this medicine has several active ingredients that work very fast and effectively.

However, since it has a codeine-derived ingredient, you have to use this more carefully as it can cause an overdose easily.

Active ingredients included: クロルフェニラミンマレイン酸塩 (Chlorphenamine), ジヒドロコデインリン酸塩 (Dihydrocodeine Phosphate), dl-メチルエフェドリン塩酸塩 (dl-Methylephedrine Hydrochloride), グアイフェネシン (Guaifenesin)


  • Vick’s Medical Troche
medicines in japan

Ref. : taisho.co.jp

Vick’s medical troche is an antitussive and expectorant drug that soothes symptoms such as sore throat, throat irritation, and coughing due to throat inflammation.

Active ingredients included: セチルピリジニウム塩化物水和物 (Cetylpyridinium Chloride Hydrate), フェノールフタリン酸デキストロメトルファン (Dextromethorphan Phenolphthalate), グアヤコールスルホン酸カリウム (Potassium Guaiacolsulfonate)


Understanding the active ingredients in OTC cold medications is crucial to selecting the appropriate treatment.

Always adhere to recommended dosages and consult a healthcare professional for severe or persistent symptoms.

While these medications can provide relief, it’s essential to monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention if they worsen or persist.

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