Cough Syrups

This is a confusing area, with many products. To simplify, consider only two major categories of cough medication: “expectorants” and “cough suppressants.” The expectorants are usually preferable because they liquefy the secretions and allow the body’s defenses to get rid of the material. Cough suppressants should be avoided if the cough is bringing up any material or if there is lot of mucus. In the late stages of cough, when it is dry and hacking, compounds containing a suppressant may be useful. We prefer compounds that do not contain an antihistamine because the drying effect on the mucus can harm as much as help.

Reading the Labels

Glyceryl guaiacolate, potassium iodide, and several other frequently used chemicals cause an expectorant action. Cough-suppressant action comes principally from narcotics, such as codeine. Over-the-counter cough suppressants cannot contain codeine. They often contain dextromethrophan hydrobromide, which is not a narcotic but is a close chemical relative. Many commercial mixtures contain a little of everything and may have the some of the ingredients of the cold compounds as well.