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The problem with Cough Syrups

“Which cough syrup should I take doctor?”

I find people get very obsessed with which cough syrup is the best or which will cure them….but the truth is that cough syrups cannot “cure” the cause of your cough. They can at best, maybe make you feel better or at worst have side effects. Really, they are no better than good old honey and lime.

So, what are the different cough syrups? 

Well, they are broadly spilt into cough suppressants which you take for dry coughs, and expectorants which you take for wet coughs. Suppressants are supposed to stop you coughing and expectorants are supposed to loosen the mucous in your chest and help you to bring it up.

An example of a cough suppressants is Dextromethorphan. Some examples of expectorants are Guaifenesin and Ipecacuanha. People on certain types of antidepressants (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) cannot take Dextromethorphan. Decongestants have a similar interaction.

But do they work?

Trials have not really shown much in the way of improvement but if you find they make you feel better it is probably fine to take them. – Except for children under 6. Children under 6 should not be given these cough syrups. Instead, if they are over 1 year old, they can have a spoonful of honey. Honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and soothes sore throats. It also tastes good!

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