Knowing the best treatment for your cough can save you unnecessary negative side effects and bring fast relief.
The fastest relief from a lingering cough or an incoming cold is usually over-the-counter drugs. But fast is not always good for you especially due to the hundreds of medicine drugs.
Learn about the different types of cough medicine and the cases where you should think about using a natural remedy.
Which cough are you experiencing?
Coughs are divided into two types:
Acute coughs: This cough comes on strong usually with the flu or a cold. It lasts upto three weeks. Most counter cough medicines are designed for acute cough treatment.
Chronic coughs: This one can last over three weeks. It usually stems from body disorders like asthma, chronic bronchitis, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), smoking.
Chronic coughs should not be treated with cough medicine because the body is using the cough reflex to clear the lungs.
Which cough medicine is suitable for each?
1.Over-the-counter cough medicine
Cough medicine for treating acute cough is divided into two:
Antitussives: These are cough suppressants that block the cough reflex by interrupting activity in the part of the brain responsible.
Expectorants: This medicine works as a mucus thinner. They help the cough reflex move mucus easier.
This means that expectorants are suitable for a wet cough or productive cough usually in common cold and bronchitis, to clear congestion. Whereas the antitussives are suitable for a dry cough to ease the cough reflex which can be painful and interrupts sleep.
2.Prescription cough medicine
When the doctor prescribes cough medicine, these are the mst common ingredients in prescribed cough medicine.
Hydrocodone: It is an opioid cough suppressant. It is used to treat persistent dry cough by targeting the part of the brain responsible. It is not given to children below 18 because it can trigger dependence and abuse.
Codeine: It is an opioid pain reliever. It is usually used with other medication. It also targets the cough reflex brain mechanism. It has similar side effects like hydrocodone and should not be given to children below 18.
Cough medicine that have codeine or hydrocodone should be used with careful as they can surpress the ability to breathe, says Elliot Dinetz, M.D., a double board-certified family medicine and functional medicine physician and a Forbes Health Advisory Board member.
“There are also issues surrounding overdosing, which is why (prescription cough medicines) are not typically recommended.” he adds.
“Hydrocodone and codeine are not routinely used in the treatment of cough due to their addiction potential and possible sedation,” says Niraj Patel, D.O., an Atlanta-based, board-certified family medicine physician and a Forbes Health Advisory Board member.
These home remedies are helpful in relieving cough from flu or a cold.
Honey: Dissolve a teaspoon of honey in hot water or tea when it is about bed time. It is effective in reducing cough reflex frequency and intensity.
Ginger: It works as a natural suppressant. It has been proven that it relaxes airway muscles. Boil chopped ginger root in water to make tea. Or grate a piece in hot water.
When dealing with acute coughs, “I generally advise symptomatic control with hydration (water, chicken soup), honey (in those older than 1 year), and cough lozenges over any over-the-counter products, such as antitussives or expectorants,” says Dr. Patel.
How to choose the best cough treatment for you
- Stick to the less harmful and cheap remedies: fluids, honey, etc.
- Discontinue use if the cough is not going away, and talk to a doctor.
- Underlying conditions like cough-variant asthma and acid reflux can cause chronic cough but require professional evaluation.
What to know before using cough medicine
- Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines contain alcohol.
- Some of them can interact other medications you might be taking.
- Seek medical advise before using OTC cough medicine if you have serious health issues.
- Always consult your doctor when in doubt.
Warning signs to seek immediate medical attention
- Coughing blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Neck pain or lumps
- If cough does not go away after three weeks
- Difficulty in sleeping
Cough is considered a common health nuisance but its treatment could mean health or adverse effects if not handled well. Proper and appropriate treatment could also means that it stops reoccuring or resolves within a shorter period of time.