What Really Works to Fight a Stubborn Cough?

From Drugs.com - November 8, 2017

What Really Works to Fight a Stubborn Cough?

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 8, 2017 -- If you are looking for a cough remedy this cold season, you might be out of luck.

Nothing has been proven to work that well, according to a new report from the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

After reviewing clinical trials testing everything from cough syrups to zinc, an ACCP panel came to some less-than-positive conclusions: Over-the-counter medicines -- including cold and cough products and anti-inflammatory painkillers -- cannot be recommended.

Nor is there evidence supporting most home remedies -- though, the group says, honey is worth a shot for kids.

Every season, most people probably battle at least one cold-induced cough, said report author Dr. Mark Malesker.

And they apparently want relief. In 2015, Americans spent more than $9.5 billion on over-the-counter cold/cough/allergy remedies, according to the report.

"But if you look at the evidence, it really does not support using those products," said Malesker, a professor at Creighton University in Omaha.

Unfortunately, he said, there have been no big advances made since 2006 -- the last time the chest physicians issued guidelines on treating cold-related cough.

Malesker's team looked at trials of cold products that combine decongestants and antihistamines, or decongestants and painkillers. They found no consistent evidence that any quash a cough.

The same was true when they analyzed studies of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

So what do you do when a hacking cough keeps you up all night?

A couple of studies have found that honey may bring some relief to children age 1 and up. (Honey should not, however, be given to babies younger than 1 year, the physicians' group says.)

There was also "weak evidence" that zinc lozenges might help ease adults' coughing -- but it was not enough to recommend them, according to the report. Plus, it says, zinc can have side effects, including a bad taste in the mouth, stomach cramps and vomiting.

What about storied home remedies, like Grandma's chicken soup or neti pots for nasal irrigation? There's no strong evidence for them, either, the review found.

On the other hand, Malesker said, if your favorite tea or soup makes you feel better, use it.

"It's very frustrating that we have not found a good way to address this," said Dr. David Beuther.

Beuther is a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, a Denver hospital that specializes in respiratory diseases.


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