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Cough medicine

From Academic Kids

A cough medicine or antitussive is a medication given to people to help them stop coughing.

The type of cough medication taken depends on the nature of the cough. Dry coughs are treated with cough suppressants (antitussives) that suppress the body's urge to cough.

Productive coughs (coughs associated with phlegm) are treated with expectorants, drugs designed to loosen and help the body expel mucus from the respiratory tract.

Contents

Cough suppressants

Cough suppressants can act centrally (on the brain) or locally (on the respiratory tract) to suppress the cough reflex.

Centrally acting suppressants include DXM (dextromethorphan), noscapine, ethyl morphine, and codeine.

Peripherally acting substances include local anaesthetics that reduce sensation of the nerves of the throat, and demulcents that coat the back of the throat.

One might think that it is unwise to suppress the cough reflex, and with that the possibility of expelling mucus from the respiratory tract. However, severe coughing can actually lead to lung irritation, which starts a vicious circle. Above that, the cough reflex is very strong and will not be completely suppressed.

Expectorants

An expectorant is a medicine or herb which increases the expulsion of tracheal or bronchial mucus through expectoration or coughing.

Herbal expectorants

Other Expectorants

Guaifenesin is a commonly found expectorant in over-the-counter drugs.

Cough drops

Cough drops are tablets which people can suck to soothe the throat or to alleviate excessive coughing. They are usually relatively small, sweetened, and contain medicine that helps to reduce pain or irritation. The term lozenge (first used in 1530, according to the Oxford English Dictionary) derives from its being originally lozenge-shaped. Today one of the most popular brand names are Fisherman's Friend, Halls and Ricola.

Controversy

In 2002, researchers at the University of Bristol (Schroeder & Fahey) published a study in the British Medical Journal indicating that some cough medicines are no more effective than placebos.

Reference

  • Schroeder K, Fahey T. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials of over the counter cough medicines for acute cough in adults. BMJ 2002;324:329-31. Fulltext (http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/324/7333/329). PMID 11834560.

External links

fr:Expectorant pt:Antitússico

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