Coughing is one of the most recognizable symptoms of illness. It can also be one of the most annoying. Frequent coughing can irritate the throat, make the ribs sore and even be embarrassing. Coughing related to upper respiratory tract infections is one of the most frequent reasons for ambulatory visits to health-care providers 1.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Opiate antitussives are narcotic agents that act centrally to suppress the cough reflex. The exact mechanism of action in unknown. This medication requires evaluation by a physician or nurse-practitioner and it does require a prescription. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opiate and is considered to have the strongest effect in blocking the cough reflex. Like all narcotics, it can cause drowsiness and decrease respiratory drive. In addition, chronic use can lead to addiction. It is commonly combined with medications such as acetaminophen and homatropine to discourage overuse.
Codeine is a naturally occurring opiate alkaloid, about 10 percent of the medication is converted into morphine. It is considerably less addictive than most other opiates.
- Opiate antitussives are narcotic agents that act centrally to suppress the cough reflex.
- It is commonly combined with medications such as acetaminophen and homatropine to discourage overuse.
Codeine is a naturally occurring opiate alkaloid, about 10 percent of the medication is converted into morphine.
List of Cough Medicines
Dextromethorphan is a non-opiate antitussive medication that has been available over the counter since 1958. It does not have the side effects of sedation or respiratory suppression. Its effectiveness has been debated, and it is generally not considered effective in children. Benzonatate is a relatively effective medication that is available only with a prescription. The chemical structure is similar to local anesthetics, and it is thought to numb the cough reflex to prevent frequent coughing.
- Dextromethorphan is a non-opiate antitussive medication that has been available over the counter since 1958.
- The chemical structure is similar to local anesthetics, and it is thought to numb the cough reflex to prevent frequent coughing.
Gauifenisen is an expectorant that is believed to lubricate the airways and change the quality of the mucous. Gauifenisen is thought to produce its effect by increasing the amount of water in the bronchial secretions, making them easier to cough up.
List of Cough Medicines
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- U.S. National Library of Medicine; "Do OTC remedies relieve cough in acute upper respiratory infections?" October 2009
- The Cochrane Library: "Over-the-counter medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings." January 2007
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Dextromethorphan.
- 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
- Spangler DC, Loyd CM, Skor EE. Dextromethorphan: A case study on addressing abuse of a safe and effective drug. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2016;11(1):22. doi:0.1186/s13011-016-0067-0
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When to give kids medicine for coughs and colds. Updated November 27, 2018.
- MedlinePlus. Dextromethorphan. Updated February 15, 2018.
- Dicpinigaitis PV, Dhar S, Johnson A, Gayle Y, Brew J, Caparros-Wanderley W. Inhibition of cough reflex sensitivity by diphenhydramine during acute viral respiratory tract infection. Int J Clin Pharm. 2015;37(3):471–474. doi:10.1007/s11096-015-0081-8
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Diphenhydramine.
- MedlinePlus. Diphenhydramine. Updated August 15, 2018.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA drug safety communication: FDA requires labeling changes for prescription opioid cough and cold medicines to limit their use to adults 18 years and older. Updated January 22, 2018.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hycodan (hydrocodone bitartarate and homotropine methylbromide). Updated January 2017.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Issues Alert on Tussionex, a Long-Acting Prescription Cough Medicine Containing Hydrocodone. FDA News Press Release 11 Mar 08.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Questions and Answers About FDA’s Enforcement Action Regarding Unapproved Hydrocodone Drug Products.