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Does cough medicine really work?

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jan 27, 2017

For many people, cough syrup is their go-to remedy when they’re plagued with an annoying cough. But believe it or not, cough syrup might not actually be doing anything to help with your symptoms. In fact, research shows that taking cough syrup is no better than taking a placebo.

Most popular cough medicines don’t do anything to cure coughs caused by the common cold. The American College of Chest Physicians concluded that the drug guaifenesin found in popular brands such as Robitussin and Mucinex doesn’t do anything to help coughs, and neither do other popular ingredients such as codeine and dextromethorphan. If you’ve got a cough from something other than a cold, these medications may possibly work to reduce coughing, but they won’t cure your illness.

Still not convinced? A recent video from the American Chemical Society explains why most cough medicines don’t actually work. As the video explains, coughing is a natural reflex to help clear things from your airways that aren’t supposed to be there. Ingredients found in cough syrups are supposed to be doing things like block the cough reflex, decongest your chest of mucus and thin out mucus—but this is all in theory.

Unfortunately, there’s very little evidence that these cough syrups are effective at stopping or reducing coughs, according to multiple systematic reviews. One review of 19 studies even found that 15 out of 19 of the reviews analyzed showed no benefit from taking cough syrup—or the benefit was the same as taking a placebo. Overall, most of these studies concluded that more research was needed to really determine the efficacy of these cough medicine.

Despite this, people are still spending billions of dollars on cough syrup, which means it might be time for everyone to start looking for other remedies next time they find themselves hacking up a lung.

To learn more check out the video below:






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