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Health Tips / Dry Coughs

Non-prescription treatments

If the cough is associated with a cold, a flu or hayfever, other medicines may be required to treat the underlying problem. Cough suppressants are used to prevent a dry cough and should only be used if there is no mucous present. Expectorants are used to treat a productive cough, causing the person to "expectorate" or cough-up the secretions. When deciding on a cough treatment, it should always be clearly ascertained if it is a dry or a productive cough that is being treated. Suppressing a productive cough will result in secretions remaining within the chest, which become a medium for further viral or bacterial growth and just worsen the problem. While mistakenly using an expectorant to treat a dry cough, could just make the user cough even more.

Traditionally codeine has been widely used to treat dry cough and it is effective in the suppression of cough.  However it is constipating and can cause dependence and drowsiness. Consequently it is no longer first choice in the treatment of dry coughs. Newer agents such as Dextromethorphan and pholcodine are effective cough suppressants and have fewer side-effects.

Dextromethorphan, which does not cause drowsiness, is often recommended as a cough suppressant. It is available in a sugar-free formulation as ROBTUSSIN DRY COUGH and as BENYLIN NON-DROWSY FOR DRY COUGHS. DELSYM is a sustained release formulation of dextromethorphan meaning that it works for longer and is effective when taken twice daily. 

Pholcodine ( PHOLCODEX), is also an effective cough suppressant, but can, in some cases, cause drowsiness. 

Cough suppressants should not be taken continuously and if the cough persists, your doctor should be consulted. Cough suppressants should only be used by asthmatics on their doctors advice.

In addition to cough suppressants, dry coughs can be treated with demulcents, which contain soothing substances such as syrup or glycerol to soothe the irritated airways. VENOS HONEY AND LEMON, or GLYCERINE, HONEY AND LEMON. 

Further information on the medicines above including dosages is available at

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Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00