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c_gunningham's avatar

Cough Medicine?

Asked by c_gunningham (286points) January 22nd, 2009

Debate going here whether cough medicine actually works, does it just suppress your cough and is coughing your bodies natural way of getting rid of germs etc.

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11 Answers

dynamicduo's avatar

Coughing is one of the germ’s mechanisms for spreading itself to a non-infected victim. Same with sneezing and projectile vomiting, and even diarrhea. Once the illness is finished, oftentimes people continue to cough as there may be a buildup of phlegm and dead germ cells in the lungs or throat.

Does cough medicine work? Well, the first thing to consider here is the placebo effect. If people believe a medicine will work, oftentimes it will work even if the medicine is simply sugar pills. The brain is a very powerful organ, and we have a far ways to go before we can understand it completely. So the mere fact that you are taking medicine to help with your cough may make your cough subside, if you believe in it. Theoretically you could believe that a cup of orange juice could do the same, and it might work, although it’s less likely to because it’s obvious that orange juice is not a medicine.

Scientifically, I don’t believe cough medicine works beyond the placebo effect, and there has been research done that supports this finding.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I believe that cough syrup works, but sometimes you have to find one that works for you. Um, I had a six month coughing thing once where I was totally fine except for almost hacking up a lung every time I turned around. The doctor couldn’t figure out what my problem was, so I tried a number of various cough syrups.

My end result was that while honey or simple syrup would probably be about as effective, the cough syrups generally also had something in them so my throat wouldn’t hurt. Since all I was reallllly after was suppression, I was pleased.

Actually, I was miserable for 6 months because even though they worked, they didn’t work perfectly and it was a real bother.

Snoopy's avatar

Codeine works to decrease coughing as it decreases/slows breathing. It kinda “chills/mellows” out the whole system.

Using codeine in this way can be useful for the dry, nagging, non-productive, endless coughing that keeps you sleepless for days on end….

whoo hoo for the Candians for having over-the-counter codeine cough syrup!!!!

Vinifera7's avatar

There are two types of drugs that are commonly used in cough medicines: an expectorant or an antitussive (cough suppressant), or both.

For dry cough, you really only need the cough suppressant, but an expectorant will help bring up mucus from the lungs if that is an issue.

Some studies indicate that some antitussives are not more effective than placebos, but Codeine is considered one of the most effective.

bristolbaby's avatar

if you can avoid taking the stuff, do so.

According to researchers, many over-the-counter cough drugs are no better than sugar syrup. Researchers found the most common non-prescription cough suppressant dextromethophan (often listed as DM) is no better than placebo in providing night-time cough relief to children. Adolescents trying to get high also commonly abuse this drug.

“Cough syrups may suppress a cough a little bit. But they don’t treat the underlying cause,” said Dr. Michael Alberts, a Tampa pulmonologist who is president of the physician group. “They won’t make you better any faster.”

Another option that some doctors recommend: Just tough it out, because colds typically go away on their own.

Nimis's avatar

I’m all for expectorants. But mostly avoid suppressants.
Seems counter-intuitive to keep that phlegm from coming out.

I don’t really see coughing as a bad thing per se.
It’s the stuff that’s making me cough that I don’t like.

My sister is a pharmacist and would recommend both.
Though she says the suppressant is mostly for comfort.
Which is good if you’re coughing up a storm and your throat is starting to feel raw.

It’s not a cough medicine exactly, but I like Mucinex.
I’m all about the productive cough. Get that shit out!

Snoopy's avatar

@Nimis I agree w/ you – get it out!

However, as has happened to me on several occasions, a shallow, non productive cough, serves no purpose. It is just a reflection of the irritation from whatever infection is at hand….in those particular instances, codeine to suppress the cough is…...ahhhhhhhh…......welcome peace.

Nimis's avatar

@Snoopy Non-productive cough = Boo

Snoopy's avatar

@Nimis Boo is an understatement. Absolute misery.

Vinifera7's avatar

I don’t really understand the purpose of combining an expectorant with a cough suppressant, but it’s quite common in a lot of OTC preparations.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

None of them work for me.. I’m coughing right now. The only thing that does work is total concentration.

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