Most of us use an over-the-counter cough syrup or apply a menthol-based ointment on our chest in order to treat a cough. Before attempting this type of self-care, it is important to know how these medicines work. There are different types of medicines used for treating different types of cough, so you need to figure out which one is best suited for your case. For instance, a wet or productive cough needs to be treated differently than a dry cough.
Read on to find out more about the types of cough medicines that are available over the counter or as a prescription.
Cough suppressants: These are also called antitussives and are usually used for a dry cough. They act by suppressing the part of your brain that makes you feel like coughing. These medicines act to relieve cough but do not treat the cause of cough or speed up the recovery. It is not advised to use these medicines for treating cough related to smoking or long-term bronchial problems. Dextromethorphan is a commonly used antitussive.
Expectorants and mucolytics: These are usually prescribed for a wet or productive cough. They work by thinning the mucus in the air passages to make it easier to cough up the mucus and clear the airways. The common ingredient you need to look for in the cough syrup is guaifenesin.
Decongestants: These are used to clear a stuffy nose and treat a cough which is caused by the mucus dripping back into the throat. They can only be used to clear up the airways if your nose is blocked or if your cough is due to a post-nasal drip in order to help you sleep comfortably. The common ingredient to look for in decongestants is phenylephrine.
Antihistamines: These are anti-allergy medicines and work only if your cough is due to allergies which affect your nose and throat. These work by blocking the release of histamines, which are produced by our body as a reaction to allergens. Antihistamines can only help with allergic reactions (not allergy itself) like cough, watery eyes, and sneezing. A common ingredient to look for in antihistamine-based cough syrup is chlorpheniramine.
Combination medicines: Some cough syrups combine expectorants with decongestants and an antihistamine. Sometimes a pain reliever may also be included. This type of combination is typically used for treating a range of symptoms such as cold congestion, cough, and body aches. However, since these medicines are a combination of anti-cough formulations, using them may make you end up taking unnecessary medicines.
Topical applications: Ointments containing camphor or menthol are often rubbed on the chest or back to get relief from cough and cold. However, there is not enough evidence to prove the effectiveness of these medicines.
Wrapping it up!
If you experience no significant improvement with the over-the-counter medicines, consult with your doctor for a prescribed dose. Inform the doctor about any ongoing medical condition or any medicine which you are taking, especially antidepressants, blood pressure medication, or any other long-term medications. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any severe side effects.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
List of drug combinations banned by the Ministry. https://www.nhp.gov.in/Complete-list-of-344-drugs-banned-by-the-Ministry-of-Health-Family-welfare_pg