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When you're taking a multi-symptom cough and cold formula, make sure you know all of the ingredients it contains. Otherwise, if you take other OTC medications, you may unintentionally double-up on one and put yourself at risk for side effects or overdose.
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Smith SM, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in community settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD001831. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001831.pub5
Wet coughs, also called chest coughs, usually produce mucus or phlegm. Wet coughs are typically caused by a common cold or flu and worsen during morning hours and at night. Postnasal drip occurs when mucus accumulates in the back of the throat, causing congestion and cough. Wet coughs are sometimes treated with expectorants to help thin the mucus and make your cough more productive. Most wet coughs go away in a few days, but they can last a few weeks depending on the severity of the cold or flu.
Expectorants. These cough medicines act to loosen and thin the mucus flow in the lungs. Expectorants, like guaifenesin (Mucinex and Robitussin Chest Congestion), act by moistening the respiratory tract and breaking up the mucus to make it easier to expel.
Suppressants. Also known as antitussives, suppressants work by blocking your cough reflex in the brain to calm or quiet the cough. Suppressants, like dextromethorphan (Robitussin and Delsym), are often combined with expectorants to treat coughs.
Coughs are treated differently depending on whether it is a wet or dry cough. People with wet coughs, caused by mucus build-up, should take an expectorant to thin the mucus and make it easier to cough. For dry coughs, which are often triggered by an irritant, cough medicines with a suppressant will help quiet the cough.
For people with chronic cough whose symptoms are not managed by over-the-counter cough medicines, your doctor may conduct further exams such as pulmonary function tests, bloodwork and X-rays to determine if there is an underlying health condition. You should discuss specific treatment options with your doctor.
There are risks to taking narcotic cough medicines."Codeine and hydrocodone are associated with abuse and addiction and therefore are not a preferred treatment for most coughs," says Jackie Taylor, a pharmacist with Cleveland Clinic.
In 2008, the FDA recommended that over-the-counter cough and cold products should not be used for infants and children under age 2 because serious and potentially life-threatening side effects may occur, including convulsions, rapid heart rates and decreased levels of consciousness. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children ages 4 and under, as there is no real demonstrated benefit in younger children.
Even if you have taken the cough medicine before, carefully read the label and dosing instructions because products may change and add new ingredients. These new ingredients could interact with other medications.
The cough suppressant dextromethorphan, or DM, can interact with antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Combining dextromethorphan with these antidepressant medications can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called serotonin syndrome, which may include symptoms such as confusion, hallucination, seizure and extreme changes in blood pressure.
Cough medicines can be misused and cause serious health concerns when large doses are taken. Over-the-counter products containing cough suppressant dextromethorphan can be easily abused, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Short-term effects of misusing dextromethorphan can include alcohol or marijuana-like intoxication. Excessive use can lead to drug overdose and death.
Your primary care physician can help treat and manage most coughs. Another helpful resource is community pharmacists, who can make recommendations for effective over-the-counter cough medicines at your neighborhood pharmacy.
Natural remedies can help soothe the throat and reduce related cough symptoms. The following natural treatments, including cough-suppressing ointments and oils, are worth keeping in your medicine or kitchen cabinet:
For a non-pharmacological method, you might try a humidifier. Humidifiers help add moisture to the air, which keeps nasal passages moist. This can help decrease nighttime coughing. Humidifiers are effective for both children and adults.
While an occasional cough is normal, a cough that persists may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Coughs are a defensive reflex that aims to clear excessive secretions and foreign bodies from airways. However, severe and frequent coughing can significantly impact your quality of life.
Acute cough in adults is one that lasts for less than 4 weeks. A chronic cough in adults is one that lasts for more than a month. Acute coughs are generally a symptom of a self-limiting virus, like a cold, upper respiratory infection, influenza, and acute bronchitis. Chronic coughs are generally associated with a more serious underlying condition in which you need to see medical care if your cough lasts longer than a month. These more serious underlying conditions include asthma, GERD, COPD, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer.
Most cases of the common cold can be treated without going to a healthcare provider, there are plenty of over-the-counter cough medicines you can pick up at your local drugstore without a prescription. Some of the more popular OTC, fast treatments for a cough include:
You should see a healthcare provider (HCP) for a cough that lasts for longer than a month, or is associated with wheezing and shortness of breath, discolored mucus, or blood. If you have a history of heart problems and you suddenly have a cough not associated with an illness, like cold or flu, you should see your HCP. You should also visit with your HCP if your cough is associated with fever, night sweats, or a croup-like cough in children (sounds like a barking seal).
Natural or home remedies are best to treat cough in children, especially those under age 6 who cough medicines are not recommended for. These remedies include humidified air, honey (but not for those under age 1), VapoRub (not for those under age 2), and hydration.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are those that can be sold directly to people without a prescription. OTC medicines treat a variety of illnesses and their symptoms including pain, coughs and colds, diarrhea, constipation, acne, and others. Some OTC medicines have active ingredients with the potential for misuse at higher-than-recommended dosages.
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant found in many OTC cold medicines. The most common sources of abused DXM are "extra-strength" cough syrup, tablets and gel capsules. OTC medications that contain DXM often also contain antihistamines and decongestants. DXM may be swallowed in its original form or may be mixed with soda for flavor, called "robo-tripping" or "skittling." Users sometimes inject it. These medicines are often misused in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol and marijuana.
"We don't generally recommend over-the-counter cough medications for children because side effects such as sedation, irritability, and behavioral changes tend to outweigh any potential benefits."
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving children younger than 4 over-the-counter cold and cough medications. Instead, the advice is to let the illness run its course and wait it out.
"We don't generally recommend over-the-counter cough medications for children because side effects such as sedation, irritability, and behavioral changes tend to outweigh any potential benefits," explains Dr. Phillips.
"So if a cough or cold gets worse instead of better, particularly with a fever that comes on later in the course of the illness, the child should be seen by a doctor to make sure they're not developing a bacterial infection."
When it comes to cold and cough, prevention is the best medicine. Encourage your child to get plenty of rest, eat a mix of fruits and vegetables to boost the immune system, and practice good hand-washing hygiene.
If you choose to use honey (which has been shown to be as effective as dextromethorphan) as a cough suppressant instead of OTC medications, beware not to give it to children under the age of one due to the potential risk of botulism.
[ 8-31-2016 ] A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review has found that the growing combined use of opioid medicines with benzodiazepines or other drugs that depress the central nervous system (CNS) has resulted in serious side effects, including slowed or difficult breathing and deaths. Opioids are used to treat pain and cough; benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. In an effort to decrease the use of opioids and benzodiazepines, or opioids and other CNS depressants, together, we are adding Boxed Warnings, our strongest warnings, to the drug labeling of prescription opioid pain and prescription opioid cough medicines, and benzodiazepines.
Health care professionals should limit prescribing opioid pain medicines with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants only to patients for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate. If these medicines are prescribed together, limit the dosages and duration of each drug to the minimum possible while achieving the desired clinical effect. Warn patients and caregivers about the risks of slowed or difficult breathing and/or sedation, and the associated signs and symptoms. Avoid prescribing prescription opioid cough medicines for patients taking benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants, including alcohol.
Opioids are a class of powerful narcotic medicines that are used to treat pain severe enough to warrant use of an opioid when other pain medicines cannot be taken or are not able to provide enough pain relief. They also have serious risks including misuse and abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. Opioids such as codeine and hydrocodone are also approved in combination with other medicines to reduce coughing. Benzodiazepines are a class of medicines that are widely used to treat conditions including anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. 041b061a72