Cough remedies come in numerous types, and looking down an aisle at a local pharmacy, shoppers will find a bunch that promise to end coughs and promote comfort. It would be fantastic if these actually worked, but many have been judged relatively ineffective. Thus finding the appropriate cough remedy is something like attempting to capture the wisdom of the ages and modern science at the same time, and there are a few methods that may help ultimately end cough.
Most people will first consider over the counter (OTC) cough remedies, and these usually come in a few forms. The most common are suppressants, usually containing dextromethorphan, and expectorants, which typically have active ingredients like guaifenesin. Some medications combine these two ingredients, and others add decongestants or antihistamines as a way of relieving coughs. Studies on them suggest that the amounts available in OTC brands are actually too small to be particularly effective. They might temporarily relieve minor coughing, but they’re not usually long-lasting.
Problems exist with taking these medications too. Some people, especially those with high blood pressure who take blood thinners, or who are on antidepressants, may need to avoid medications with both of these main cough products. Also, some of the OTC medicines have very high alcohol levels that might be abused by teens or children. Typically, decongestants don’t do much to relieve coughs and may make the throat drier, and antihistamines can make people sleepy, but won’t be very effective unless the cough is a direct result of allergies.
Doctors may then turn to prescribed cough remedies like codeine, especially as combined with promethazine, an antihistamine. Directions on these may be to only use them at night to reduce cough and promote sleep. But during the day, cough can be important because it helps to produce mucus, which can clear the lungs and throat.
One of the most simple and effective cough remedies is to drink water and lots of it. Drinking water helps thin mucus and can ultimately reduce coughing. Some people find relief in drinking hot water with ingredients like licorice, ginger or lemon. Moreover, chicken soup is a tried and true method for thinning sinus secretions.
Honey is another proven remedy, more effective than dextromethorphan, but honey should not be used for kids under two. It contains botulism spores that may affect young children, though these typically have no effect on kids over the age of two. Cough drops, especially with glycerin can also provide some relief and may coat the throat reducing throat irritation. When a cough is due to upper sinus congestion, using nasal washes can help reduce mucus pooling in the throat and be one of the more effective cough remedies.
For chocolate lovers, studies suggest another remedy that may be fairly tasty. Dark chocolate, which contains a chemical called theobromine, has been shown in limited studies to be more effective than codeine at preventing coughs. Though more studies might be required to prove chocolate to be one of the effective cough remedies, there is certainly little harm in trying it.
Antibiotics are usually not the first choice among cough remedies. However, a cough that is very severe and lasts for more than a few days, and especially if accompanied by fever could indicate bacterial infection. When cough remedies aren’t working and cough continues, people should see their doctors to rule out infection. Any cough remedies, natural or over the counter will have little effect on a person with bacterial bronchitis or pneumonia.