JAN 06, 2017 03:18 PM PST

How Well do Cough Medicines Really Work?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Coughs are among one of the most common, yet non-specific, medical symptoms. They send about 30 million people to the doctor's office every year, while countless more probably self-medicate at home with over-the-counter cough medicine. But while cough medicines are the ubiquitous go-to drug, how many of us can accurately say that these drugs actually lessen our coughing?

According to some reviews, most cough medicines that contain suppressants to block your cough reflex, and expectorants to loosen airway mucus aren't very effective. "We've never had good evidence that cough suppressants and expectorants help with cough," says Norman Edelman, MD, senior scientific advisor at the American Lung Association. "But people are desperate to get some relief. They're so convinced that they should work that they buy them anyway."

Watch the video to learn why these chemicals don't appear to stop the coughing.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 06, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 06, 2018
The Rise of Thorium Nuclear Reactors
In the 1960s, an experimental reactor was built at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The scientists who worked on this project had one ingenious idea: to...
NOV 07, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 07, 2018
Why Are Fruit Flies Attracted to Rotting Fruit Smell?
Fruit flies are the staple pests in the kitchen during summer. As much as these unwelcomed guests enjoy sucking up sugary juice, they are actually more att...
NOV 13, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 13, 2018
Viscoelasticity and Non-Newtonian Fluids
One of these is not like the others: honey, water, ketchup, and blood. The answer? Water, because the other three are all non-Newtonian fluid. When Isaac N...
NOV 15, 2018
Videos
NOV 15, 2018
Viewing the Interactions Between Cellular Structures
Scientists have used powerful microscopy techniques to learn more about how the dynamics of a live cell....
DEC 05, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 05, 2018
Stretchable Ultrathin Electronic Skin Produced from a Desktop Printer
Electronic tattoos or e-tattoos are flexible polymer patches that can sense and transmit electrical signals. e-tattoos have great potential in advancing medical prosthetics and human-machine...
DEC 15, 2018
Videos
DEC 15, 2018
How Bacteria Help Clean the Georgia Aquarium
At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, the waste generated by over 700 species of animals has to be filtered out of the aquatic environment....
Loading Comments...