As many of you know, February was not a kind month with regards to cold and flu.
We all know how aggravating getting sick can be, especially when we have to deal with a nasty cough. We get a lot of questions at the pharmacy about how to best treat a cough, which can be tricky, especially with the many products available. Below I will lay-out the options to help you choose the best product.
First, appropriately diagnosing the reason for a cough will help to pick out the most effective product. A chronic cough can be the result of smoking, or other health problems like COPD or Asthma. Certain medications, most notably ACE Inhibitor blood pressure medications like Lisinopril, Benazepril, and Ramipril, can cause a chronic, dry cough. Seasonal allergies can also cause a cough.
It is important to remember that anytime you suffer from a chronic cough, it is best to see your primary care physician to get a proper evaluation and treatment.
For the rest of this post, I will focus on treating a non-chronic cough caused by short term illnesses, such as cold or flu. Below you will find some recommendations for treating cough using over-the-counter medications.
Cough Medications for Children
To begin, treating a cough in infants and children can be very tricky. It is generally never recommended to use cough and cold products, other than fever reducers/pain medications (Tylenol® / Advil®). One of the most common cough medications, dextromethorphan (Delsym® / Robitussin DM®), should never be used in children under 4 years of age. Also, while it can be used in children over 4 years of age, most recommendations do not suggest use under 12 years of age.
Honey can also be a great option to help treat a cough in children. Zarbee’s®, a children’s cough syrup commonly recommended by pediatricians, main active ingredient is dark honey. Zarbee’s® recommends taking 1 teaspoonful (5 ml) up to every 4 hours for children 1 – 4 and 2 teaspoonfuls (10 ml) for children over 4 years old. This dosing is the same for plain honey bought in a store. Honey can also be diluted in tea or juice to help make it easier for a child to take. It is very important to note to never give honey to a child under 1 year of age due to a risk of botulism.
Zarbee’s® also makes a cough syrup for babies under 1 year of age that contains agave syrup and thyme. However, before treating your baby for a cough, it would be best to take them to their pediatrician for a proper evaluation.
Cough Medications for Adults
Treating cough in adults is a little more straightforward.
Honey, again, can be used, either by taking a tablespoonful or diluting it in a liquid like hot tea. Dextromethorphan in products like Delsym® and Robitussin DM® can be used. Delsym® is an extended release formulation that is dosed at 10 ml (60 mg) every 12 hours and Robitussin DM® is an immediate release formulation that is dosed at 20 mg every 4 hours. Different formulations of Robitussin DM®, and subsequent generics, are available with different concentrations, so make sure to read the directions or ask a pharmacist to help pick out the right dose. Robitussin DM® also makes a sugar-free version that is great for diabetics, while Delsym® is the most frequently pharmacist recommended OTC cough treatment for adults.
Lozenges or cough drops, like Halls® or Ricola®, can also be used to help treat a cough. Lozenges are not generally as effective to treat a cough, but they may provide some benefit and can also help soothe a sore throat. Most brands make cough drops with menthol in them, which is particularly beneficial to help soothe a sore throat. Cough drops are also generally safe for children, but can be a choking hazard in younger children.
Sona recently started carrying Honees® cough drops, which contain pure liquid honey, menthol, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Honees® is a unique product that has quickly become a best-seller and is now the go-to cough drop for many of our pharmacists.
Non Drug Options for Treating a Cough
Non-drug options can also be useful when treating a cough. Drinking plenty of fluid can help to thin mucus. Humidifiers or steam can also be used to help break up chest congestion. Mucinex® is another option to help break up chest congestion, however it is not overly effective and you must still drink plenty of water in order for it to work.
For children, bulb syringes can be used to help clear nasal passages of excess mucus. Oral allergy medications like Zyrtec®, Allegra®, or nasal steroids like Flonase® or Rhinocort® can be used to help treat a cough caused by seasonal allergies.
Last, but certainly not least, if you are pregnant or breast feeding, make sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist before using any over the counter medications. There are some over the counter medications that may be safe to use.
I hope this article will help to navigate some of the many cough and cold medications available. As always, if you have any questions you can always come in and talk to one of our Sona pharmacists!