Cough suppressants


How do you feel about the use of cough syrups?


Mark – Portland, OR




I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of cough suppressants. I frequently am asked for a prescription for medication to “just stop me from coughing.” But it’s important to remember that there is a reason for the cough. The body is trying to get rid of debris in the lungs, and infectious material. It isn’t necessarily a good idea to simply stop the cough from happening.

Cough suppressants like codeine act on brain to decrease the cough reflex. Better than simply stopping the brain from wanting to cough are treatments that allow the lungs to clear infection, and to heal. This includes steam therapy, expectorants to clear mucous, and staying hydrated. Cough drops can help an irritated throat feel better and decrease cough. Sleeping with the head elevated can also be useful. Some patients benefit from inhaled medications to relax the airways and allow improved airflow. Antibiotics are sometimes indicated, as well as steroids such as prednisone.

Most of the time, to determine the best solution to a cough, a visit to the doctor is needed to take a history and listen to your lungs. For patients that have a dry, hacking cough that is keeping them awake, cough suppressants may be an option, but it shouldn’t be an automatic.



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