OTC medicines and cough

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 9th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’ve heard you can’t cure the common cold. Researchers now say the medicines you’ve used to cure the common cough might not work, either.

New guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians say some medicines bought over the counter may do nothing to soothe a cough caused by the common cold. According to the report, newer, non-drowsy medications that do not provide pain relief should not be used to treat a cough. Children, who may be especially susceptible to the medicines’ non-drowsy effects, should never take them.

The college’s report comes after the review of a series of studies related to the cough reflex.

It also discredits medications with expectorants and suppressants such as dextromethorphan [dextro-meh-THOR-fan], found in a host of syrups and drops, saying they may not affect a cough at all.

But don’t panic. This doesn’t mean you should toss all your tried-and-true remedies. Older, over-the-counter preparations with sedatives can relieve some symptoms. And naproxen, a common pain reliever, can also curb a cough’s sting.

These recommendations only apply to coughs associated with the common cold. Chronic cough and bacterial infections may call for prescription medications.

So, next time you get a cold, think twice about walking down the cough medicine aisle. Don’t let habit get the best of you; non-drowsy could mean non-effective.

And considering coughs factor into nearly thirty million doctor’s visits a year and amount to billions in expenditures on cough and cold preparations, that’s nothing to sneeze at.