Coughing is one of the most common ‘symptoms’ experienced by us and its presence saves us from many illnesses and reduces the risk of contracting such illnesses. A cough can be present when a person is ill or else when he is in good health. Basically, it acts when it’s needed and sometimes this ‘need’ may not be helpful, but will become a nuisance.
The modern pharmacology has given birth to many medications that is thought to be giving relief to a cough which does not seem to be useful or else is not effective. But, the use of cough remedies had become so abusive, that they have become a hazard than a reliever. Therefore, let us look at some important aspects of cough remedies in order to reap the maximum benefit from these over the counter remedies.
Why do you need a ‘cough’?
The cough is a reflex mechanism which will expel any foreign bodies, excessive secretions within the respiratory system or else from the air passages, to the outside world. Thereby, it protects the lungs from becoming infected or else damaged.
What controls the cough reflex?
The reflex mechanism gets activated through signal receptors in the respiratory passages and in the lungs. On stimulation, they will transmit a signal to the brain which will then be sending back a response to the muscles in the region and to the diaphragm to contract forcefully to send a sudden stream of air into the outside environment.
What are the types of coughs?
Certain coughs will be known as ‘dry coughs’ as it doesn’t produce any phlegm at all and certain other coughs are known as ‘wet or phlegmy’ coughs for its production of mucus. Apart from these, there are coughs which are caused due to reflux of acids from the stomach and as side effects of various drugs.
How does cough remedies act?
A cough medicine for a ‘dry cough’ would act by suppressing the cough reflex in the brain and therefore is known as ‘centrally acting’. A medicine which acts in ‘wet coughs’ will stimulate to produce more phlegm or else will thin out the secretions so as to make the expulsion easy. Such elimination will remove the stimulus for the cough reflex.
What other effects will the cough remedy exert?
Apart from stimulating or suppressing the cough, it can also have decongestant properties which will constrict the dilated blood vessels in the nasal passages and thus will relieve the ‘blocked nose’. Certain other ingredients will help to soothe the throat and the air passages to be less irritating to existing stimuli. Apart from these, some remedies will have pain relieving and sedative qualities as well.
How do you choose a cough remedy?
Usually, the following ingredients will constitute the cough remedy among many others and therefore needs to pay attention.
* Dextromethophan (DM) – Suppresses the cough reflex – In case of dry cough
* Codein – Suppresses the cough reflex but would be sedative – Needs doctors prescription
* Guaifenesin – Thins out mucus secretions – for productive cough
* Menthol – Usually to soothe the throat and the airways
When should you NOT take cough remedies?
If a child under the age of 6 years develops a cough, medical advice needs to be sorted in order to start on cough medications. The same needs to be done in case of pregnancy, use of other medications for hypertension, heart disease, anxiety…etc, when other symptoms such as fever, blood stains, difficulty in breathing…etc is present with the cough and in any instance where the cough relievers do not show improvement in the existing cough.
Are they effective?
Well, the research suggests otherwise and the effectiveness can vary from person to person as well. In any circumstance, it should be remembered that, cough is just a symptom and not a disease. Therefore, relieving the cough would not clear away the underlying medical problem