Controlling Cough

Expectorants or mucolytics are usually given for productive cough in the belief that they will help liquefy and loosen phlegm, making it easier to expel it from the body. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that these drugs work. The only exception to this rule is guaifenesin which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said may help in some cases.

“There’s a big market out there for something called ‘expectorants.’ They’re supposed to loosen your cough so that you can spit out the mucus in your airways. There are several different commercially available prescriptions including potassium iodide, hypertonic saline, and guaifenesin. In my view, you’re probably wasting your time, money and effort on any of these preparations. With the exception of guaifenesin, which may have some liquefying effect in very large doses, I have never found these products to work,” said Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital – Memorial Sloan-Kettehng Cancer Center in “The Best Treatment.”

When coughing doesn’t bring up phlegm or mucus, it’s called dry or “unproductive.” This can be triggered by ingesting cold foods or beverages which stimulate the nerves in the roof and back of the mouth. A persistent, dry cough can also be a symptom of a tumor, a heart disorder, the irritation of breathing passages from chemicals, dust and cigarettes, or the inflammation of the vocal cords.

The best treatment for this particular cough depends on what’s causing it. Once the underlying condition is treated, the cough will disappear. However, it may be appropriate to take cough medicine at this time since a dry cough can be irritating and harmful in the long run.

“A harsh or forceful cough can be an irritant to the lining of the airways, just as cigarette smoke can be irritating. The act of coughing causes the air passages to contract. When this happens over and over, it leads to inflamed membranes and helps to perpetuate the cough. Coughing is similar to scratching an itch over the skin: If overdone, it can do more harm than good,” according to Dr. David E. Larson, editor-in-chief of the “Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.”

Faced with this problem, what medicine should you take? If the root of the problem is simple throat irritation, take honey, hard candy, or medicated throat lozenges. Look for products containing menthol or camphor. Their vapors have an anesthetic or analgesic effect on the throat.

“Some cough lozenges contain soothing substances such as honey, liquorice, or glycerin which may act on the surface of the throat. They may also contain pleasant smelling and tasting substances such as peppermint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, lemon, clove or aniseed. The main effect of these preparations is that their smell or taste may help you feel better. They may increase the production of saliva which is soothing and helps to wash the inflamed surface of the throat. Don’t take cough medicines which contain the same ingredients in liquid form since they are swallowed directly into the stomach and only have a fraction of a second to work locally on the throat,” said Andrew Chetley in “Problem Drugs.”

If that doesn’t work, you may need a cough suppressant or antitussive. These medicines act on the portion of the brain that controls the cough reflex. Three drugs have been approved by the FDA for this purpose: codeine, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine. What can you expect from these drugs? Find out in the third part of this series.

To strengthen your body, take Immunitril – your first line of defense in maintaining a healthy immune system. For details, visit (Next: Are other cough remedies safe?).

How to Deal With a Cough

A cough can be a small thing but it can cause a lot of problems. There are coughs that are very chronic and they cause one so much harm if not dealt with as required. Coughing is a common condition that almost everyone has experienced at one time or another. There are different reasons for people to develop cough and the symptoms are also different depending on the people.

When there is a sensation that is tickling at the back of the throat is usually the time that one experiences coughing. In this regard, there are two different types of coughs, these are the dry cough and the wet or sometimes referred to as productive cough whereby one brings out a discharge of either mucus or sputum.

Coughs are usually caused by sore throats or by common cold. These are the main causes although there are other many causes of the same. They can be easily noticed since the symptoms are usually obvious. One can use over the counter coughing medicines if the cough is not that severe but if it is extremely bad and it is accompanied by fever, difficulty in breathing and a discolored discharge, and then you need to see the doctors as soon as possible.

One can take cough lozenges to stop the coughing and other cough syrups that the doctor may prescribe according to the diagnosis made. Cough syrups usually cause drowsiness and this means that one should not do things that require them to be alert like driving when taking these medicines.

Do Shotgun Cough Remedies Work?

Aside from codeine, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine, are there other effective cough suppressants?

The answer is no. None of the other ingredients you’ll find in the market today have met the US Food and Drug Administration’s standards for efficacy. In fact, some ingredients may be bad for your health and should be avoided.

The last rule applies to so-called shotgun remedies or cough medicines that contain a lot of ingredients. In many cases, these combinations are irrational and without basis. For instance, some products contain expectorants that supposedly loosen phlegm. At the same time, they also have a cough suppressant that stops coughing and prevents a person from spitting out phlegm!

“A survey of prescribing guides from 12 regions of the world found that well over third of the 2,198 cough and cold preparations listed contained more than three ingredients. A staggering 86 percent of all the products listed contained ingredients deemed by independent sources to be ineffective in the treatment of cough. And, to add injury to insult, 55 percent of the products contained ingredients liable to cause harmful adverse reactions. The situation is not improving (as more recent studies show),” according to Andrew Chetley in “Problem Drugs.”

Other irrational cough remedies combine cough suppressants like dextromethorphan with different ingredients in an effort to make the whole mixture more effective. However, experts warn that such combinations do not necessarily make a better product or an effective cough syrup.

“Many cough medications also contain painkillers, decongestants, or antihistamines. Most of us in the medical profession, however, believe that these combination products are not terribly effective, and can even cause further problems. All too often they do not provide a sufficient dose of a necessary active ingredient, while containing drugs that are not needed for the treatment of your illness. They may also contain an ingredient to which you may respond badly, thus complicating the illness and its diagnosis. Stick to single-ingredient products whenever possible and familiarize yourself with the ingredients most appropriate for a particular symptom in order to select the best medication,” said Drs. Michael D. Mitchell and Marvin S. Eiger in “The Pill Book.”

To benefit most from the above suppressants, choose products that contain only one effective active ingredient. You can save money and minimize side effects that way. Cough drops or tablets are preferable than syrups since the latter are expensive and contain many questionable ingredients.

“Regardless of which antitussive you choose – codeine or dextromethorphan – take it ‘straight’ in tablet form. There’s no need to gag on a syrup that often tastes terrible, may depress an already impaired appetite, and usually contains sugar, which you want to avoid if you are diabetic (although there are sugar-free cough syrups.) The point is, none of the added ingredients in the syrup is going to help your cough,” said Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital – Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in “The Best Treatment.”

To strengthen your body, take Immunitril – your first line of defense in maintaining a healthy immune system. For details, visit