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What Is Benzonatate?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2016
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Benzonatate is an antitussive, also known as cough medicine, that is prescribed to patients who are fighting a condition such as the common cold or pneumonia. This drug is extremely dangerous for children under the age of 10, so it should not be left within their reach. Unless otherwise instructed by a prescribing physician, the liquid-filled capsules of benzonatate are taken once every four to six hours as needed, but no more than three times daily. One advantage of the medication is that it is not an opioid, and is therefore less likely to be used in illicit ways than medications containing drugs such as dextromethorphan. Benzonatate can cause minor side effects such as headaches, and dangerous ones like difficulty breathing.

Whether or not this medication is prescribed depends on the type of cough. If the cough is dry and not productive, benzonatate might be prescribed to suppress it. On the other hand, if the patient is coughing up phlegm or mucus, a medication may be prescribed to thin the phlegm to make it easier to cough up. In cases where the doctor can treat the actual cause of the cough, like infection or asthma, this is usually treated instead or in combination with the cough.

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Children can easily overdose on this drug; in fact, children age two or under can fatally overdose on just a couple capsules. Some overdose side effects are convulsions, tremors, and cardiac arrest, which can all happen within 30 minutes of consumption.

Benzonatate can cause certain effects that are not necessarily dangerous, but all of them can be bad if they persist for too long. The gastrointestinal issues of stomach discomfort and constipation, for instance, are fairly common side effects of the drug. Furthermore, nasal stuffiness, burning eyes, and headache are also regularly experienced when taking benzonatate. Lastly, dizziness and drowsiness are commonly caused by this drug.

In addition to signs of overdose, such as coma, tremors, and restlessness, there are a few symptoms that can be very dangerous if experienced. Skin issues such as rashes, itching and the presence of hives can all be dangerous, and it is typically advisable that a medical professional be contacted if someone taking benzonatate experiences such symptoms. Furthermore, mental problems like seeing and hearing things that are not actually happening, memory confusion, and trouble focusing can also signal trouble. Difficulty swallowing or slowness or difficulty breathing are also signs that need medical evaluation.

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