Cough Drops – Effect, Application & Risks

Cough drops

Cough drops are used against diseases of the respiratory tract, whereby a distinction is made between expectorant cough drops and classic cough suppressants. Pharmaceutical cough drops usually require a prescription and pharmacy, while natural and homeopathic cough drops are also available without a doctor’s prescription.

What are cough drops?

Cough drops are liquid medicines for oral use. The respective active ingredients are usually dissolved in alcohol and preserved, although alcohol-free cough drops are also available, especially for the treatment of children.

Cough medicines can generally develop different modes of action, which depend individually on the disease and the symptoms. The actual cough is a natural protective mechanism of the organism, which serves to free the respiratory tract. The cleansing function of the cough occurs when the lungs , bronchi or throat are diseased.

If a tough phlegm is transported out of the respiratory tract with the cough, it is referred to as a phlegm cough. This is regularly preceded by an infection, while a dry cough is also known as a dry cough and inflammation of the mucous membranes or allergies are common causes. The respective cough drops therefore develop an expectorant or calming and anti-irritant effect.

Medical application, effect & use

Cough drops with an expectorant effect are taken at regular intervals according to the specified dosage. The duration of therapy depends on the severity of the disease and is at least one week. In the case of colds and flu-like infections, treatment is recommended for up to about three days after the signs of the disease have subsided.All expectorant cough drops have the effect that the viscous secretion in the airways is diluted and can be coughed up better. In addition, some products have an antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect that protects against reinfection.

Cough drops for a dry cough and dry cough hardly differ from the expectorant variants in terms of their dosage form, duration of treatment and dosage. The chemically manufactured cough drops for dry coughs use antitussives to dampen and suppress the urge to cough. The natural active ingredients often have a calming, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.

The use of cough suppressants is considered controversial. On the one hand, the diseased organism comes to rest and recovery through the muffled cough; on the other hand, this restricts the body’s natural cleansing and protective function. If a large amount of secretion accumulates, cough drops that stop coughing can have a counterproductive effect on the success of the treatment, as it prevents the bacterially contaminated mucus from being coughed up.

Herbal, natural & pharmaceutical cough drops

Active ingredients in expectorant cough drops include ambroxol hydrochloride , acetylcysteine ​​and bromhexine in pharmaceutically manufactured products. In addition, many homeopathic cough drops use potent extracts from plants such as ivy, thyme , primula, anise , eucalyptus , bitter fennel , and sage .

In addition to liquefying the secretion for better expectoration, some active ingredients activate the cilia to remove the mucus. Bromhexine also stimulates the bronchial glands to produce more fluid and reduce inflammation.

The active ingredients dextromethorphan hydrobromide monohydrate, hydrocodone, noscapine resinate and codeine are often used in the pharmaceutically produced cough drops for dry and dry coughs . The majority of chemically produced cough suppressants use antitussives, which also relieve pain. As a subspecies of morphine, antitussives have a decisive influence on breathing reflexes, pain perception and the psyche, which is why they are not suitable for the treatment of children, pregnant women and those with previous illnesses.

But here, too, homeopathy offers alternatives with effective natural and plant extracts from sundew, ivy, fennel and honey, which are said to have a calming effect on the urge to cough. Treatment with cough drops is recommended, especially in the evening hours, so that the organism can regenerate while you sleep.

Risks & side effects

In general, expectorant cough drops carry the risk of having to cough up significantly more. This can be bothersome, especially in the evening and at night. Conversely, with cough suppressants there is a risk that the course of the disease will be prolonged and changed because of the cough control.The known side effects of pharmaceutically manufactured cough drops include headaches , gastrointestinal complaints, inflammation of the mucous membranes , fever and dizziness . In addition, pharmaceutically manufactured cough drops should generally not be combined with antibiotics , painkillers or psychotropic drugs without medical advice.

Allergy sufferers, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, liver and kidney diseases and especially children should only take cough drops after prior consultation with their doctor.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.