Coughing Up Money for Nothing: Consider Other Remedies When Sick

When searching for the perfect elixir to suppress a stubborn cough, many of us turn to over-the-counter or prescription-strength cough medicine. However, “perfect” is far from what cough medicine is, according to a new report from the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

After reviewing trials that looked at medicines such as cough syrups and zinc, the ACCP panel concluded that many popular cough medicines cannot be recommended. In particular, ACCP found that the drug guaifenesin—an expectorant in brands such as Robitussin and Mucinex—doesn’t help, and neither do the common suppressants codeine and dextromethorphan.

In light of these findings, you may want to consider trying one of these nonchemical cough remedies:

Honey: You can take the honey straight or mix some in a cup of tea. However, do not give honey to babies younger than 1 year old; the ingestion of honey can cause infant botulism, which can be fatal.

Thyme tea: According to a December 2013 Mother Nature Network (MNN) article, in Germany, thyme is an officially approved treatment for coughs, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, and whooping cough.

Hot shower: Standing in shower steam can help soothe your airways and loosen sinus congestion and phlegm, not to mention it can be relaxing when you’re feeling sick.

Ginger: The MNN article states ginger can be effective in treating cold and flu symptoms because of its antihistamine and decongestant properties.

Humidifier: Using a humidifier adds moisture to the air, which eases coughing and congestion, according to the Mayo Clinic. For a child’s safety, use a cool-mist humidifier versus a warm-mist one.

Acupuncture: Consider going to an acupuncturist to treat a nagging cough. Before the visit, be sure to verify an acupuncturist’s license by going to the California Acupuncture Board’s website.

Not into any of these remedies? Then just let yourself cough as part of the normal course of your illness. In a July 2017 report, U.S. Food and Drug Administration pediatrician Amy M. Taylor, M.D., MHS, said, “A cold is self-limited, and most patients will get better on their own in a week or two without needing medications.”

However, if you’re experiencing a cough that lasts several weeks, or you also have a fever, are wheezing, or coughing up blood or discolored phlegm, call your doctor. If you don’t have a doctor, or want to check on the one you’re currently seeing, you can verify a license on the Medical Board of California’s website.

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