Millions of Americans use cough medicines every year to help reduce the symptoms of colds. But do cough medicines even work? Or do they only make you fall asleep and forget how bad you feel? There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding cough medicines, and they may lead you to feel confused when trying to decide whether to use one while recovering from an illness. To help you decide if cough medicines are worth using, we’ll explore the science behind these types of products, break down the most common myths, and help you figure out how to choose the right one.
Do Common Cough Medicines Really Work?
The so-called best cough medicines you’ll find at the drugstore claim to make you feel better thanks to common cough medicine ingredients like Dextromethorphan, often referred to as DM or DXM, expectorants, and antihistamines. These drugs are designed to block the cough reflex, thin mucus and reduce inflammation in the nose and throat. Despite these claims, studies show that there is no evidence that over-the-counter cold and flu medicines actually suppress or stop coughing when compared to placebo.1 Even worse, the harsh chemicals found in these cough medicines may actually cause harmful side effects like dry mouth, grogginess and jitteriness as well as contraindications. Even the ingredients designed to help you feel better simply mask your symptoms while contributing to an accumulation of toxins in the system.2
Cough Medicine Myths
Before deciding if medication is right for you, we’ve rounded up some of the most common myths and misconceptions around cough medicine.
- MYTH: Cough medications containing DXM, expectorants or antihistamines help cure coughs and colds. As stated above, studies show that cough medications only mask symptoms, distracting you with side effects like sleepiness until your body recovers. When compared to placebo, these drugs did not actually make people feel better.
- MYTH: Antibiotics cure coughs associated with the common cold. Antibiotics are only useful when treating bacterial infection while most colds and coughs are caused by viruses.
- MYTH: Codeine, a powerful narcotic, is an effective drug to suppress coughing. Doctors commonly prescribe the narcotic codeine to reduce cough in patients with upper respiratory tract infections, but studies show that codeine is actually ineffective at relieving coughing.3 Codeine has also been shown to cause gastrointestinal upset, making matters worse. Even more seriously, codeine is a controlled substance associated with a high risk for addiction and dependence. It can cause respiratory distress and even death when taken in high doses or when combined with other substances, especially alcohol.
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Myths Surrounding Chronic Coughs
Struggling with a chronic cough can be exhausting at its worst and annoying at its best. And because there are so many potential causes, it can sometimes take several years (and tests) before your doctor figures out what’s causing your cough. In the meantime, finding a medication that will calm your cough without making you feel drowsy or nauseous can make all the difference.
While deciding on the best treatment for your chronic cough, here are some myths and misconceptions you should know about.
- MYTH: Chronic coughs are minor ailments. A chronic cough can put a significant amount of stress on a person’s body, potentially leading to chest pain, fractured ribs, abdominal pain, and incontinence. It can affect a person’s social life, quality of sleep, and how they perform at work. And in some cases, a chronic cough can indicate a serious disease like lung cancer. Simply brushing off a chronic cough as something minor is harmful to the person struggling and may prevent them from getting the help they need.
- MYTH: Chronic coughs are simply symptoms of another disease. While chronic coughs can be a sign of an underlying disease like cancer, COPD, or even be a symptom of allergies, this is not always the case. For some, chronic coughing can be triggered by environmental irritants and certain medications (like those used to treat high blood pressure). And some studies show that chronic cough may be caused by cough hypersensitivity, in which there is increased neural responsiveness to a range of stimuli that affect the airways and lungs.
- MYTH: There’s nothing to be done to help. Whether your doctor can find the root cause or not, you do not have to simply accept a chronic cough. Before turning to powerful narcotics or cough medicines laden with harsh chemicals, consider taking a cough suppressant like Brillia Health Cough Control, which works directly on receptors in the brain to calm the cough reflex.
Cough Medicine Facts: Expectorants vs Suppressants
There are two main types of cough medicines: expectorants and suppressants. Commonly used for wet coughs, cough expectorants work by thinning mucus so it can be coughed up and expelled from the body. Cough suppressants, on the other hand, block the coughing reflex entirely, which can be useful for dry coughs that produce no mucus. By reducing the cough, it’s easier to rest and recover more comfortably while relieving the stress that coughing places on the body.
Choosing the Right Cough Medicine
When battling a cough or cold, experts say that sticking to natural remedies may actually make you feel better than the most commonly sold cough medications on the market. These include drinking plenty of fluids, getting adequate sleep, using a humidifier, and consuming honey and lemon (except for children under the age of one). There’s even evidence that backs up the classic claim of eating chicken soup when you’re feeling unwell.4
Even more, a homeopathic medication like Brillia Health Cough Control can help by taking a different approach as a cough medication than the ones you may be more familiar with. Using antibody science to precisely target the macromolecules in your system that help respond to illnesses, Brillia Health’s Cough Control uses active ingredients designed to target histamines, bradykinin and morphine, which all play a role in the development of a cough. When these antibodies bind to these three molecules, they effectively reduce inflammation, congestion and fluid buildup in the lungs. This combined effort results in a reduction of the severity and frequency of cough, positively affecting our quality of life. Cough Control doesn’t just reduce a wet or dry cough, it also alleviates the stress normally put on the body by a persistent cough, allowing the body to fight off the cause of cough quickly and efficiently. This is achieved without harsh chemicals, so you specifically target the very source of the symptoms without the undesirable side effects associated with other OTC drugs like drowsiness, grogginess or jitteriness. Brillia Health’s Cough Control product includes three specific antibodies to control histamine response, reduce the frequency and severity of coughs and relieve sore throat pain and irritation.
Though Brillia Health products are new to the US market, they have been used by millions of children and adults in Europe for nearly a decade with great success. These products are clinically proven to reduce the duration of the illness, so that you get well faster, and feel better in the process.
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