Thursday, September 16, 2010

Got any COUGH syrup? Medicine Cabinet Staple #8

As I discuss what drugs most doctors keep in their medicine cabinets, the next medication that comes to mind is cough syrup.
I typically keep an over-the-counter cough syrup such as Robitussin DM or Triaminic Cough and Cold or the generic store equivalents. The primary ingredient you are looking for is the "DM"- the dextromethorphan. This is the cough suppressant portion. The other active ingredients tend to be decongestants and antihistamines. I usually pick the pure cough syrups rather than the cough and cold combo's, because I like to choose my own decongestants/antihistamines (to control side effects like sleepiness.)

Ever wonder why a medication would have an expectorant (guaifenisen) and a cough suppressant? What's up with that? Do you want to loosen it up and cough it out, or stop the cough? Well, actually, a combination is not bad. It stops the annoying little throat tickle type cough, but allows you to cough effectively to clear your lungs.

What about prescription cough syrups? Honestly, we usually have ONE bottle of some kind of codeine or hydrocodone cough syrup in the house, though typically I find it is expired when I reach for it in the middle of the night for a coughing family member! These are ADDICTIVE, so if you have a tendency towards preferring medications that give you a slight "buzz", this is NOT something you should keep around your home. If, however, you have developed a cough that is lasting all night long, preventing you and your bed partner from sleeping and leaving you with sore stomach muscles from all that coughing, a prescription cough syrup may be the right answer. Ask your doctor!

Also, please see "cough, cough, cough" for further discussion of why it is worth your time and effort to head to the doctor for a cough, even if it is from a cold (and therefore antibiotics will NOT help!)

BOTTOM LINE: Pick a cough syrup with DM from your pharmacy, and have it in your medicine cabinet this cough & cold season!

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