When we develop a nagging, painful cough, we’ll do just about whatever it takes to get it to stop. We’ll try anything: Soaking in a hot tub, eating a healthy soup, Using cough syrup or other cough medicine. But when we elect to address our symptoms with cough syrup, how do we know which is the best kind? With so many options out on the market, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
In this guide, I will provide a brief history of cough syrup, outline some of the different types of cough syrup, and attempt to answer this question
A History of Cough Syrup
Near the beginning of the 20th century, doctors were battling against multiple respiratory problems. For example, ailments such as tuberculosis and pneumonia were all too common around the world. Worse yet, patients suffered throughout the course of the disease.
Now, it would be horrible if someone suggested the following treatments for a cough. But our forefathers didn’t have the benefit of our current scientific knowledge. Also, we were willing to try just about anything to overcome these terrible illnesses.
Heroin as a Cough Treatment
Public health professionals in the late 1800s were desperate to find a treatment that would give patients some relief from the constant coughing that accompanied diseases of the era. In what was considered a major breakthrough, scientists discovered a way to modify morphine for this purpose. Specific manipulation of morphine created a drug that worked as a cough suppressant. Scientists named this new drug “heroin”.
Nowadays, heroin wreaks havoc on our world. In 2019, the CDC reported nearly 13,980 deaths due to heroin overdoses. So, what started as a well-meaning attempt to relieve coughs led to one of the worst drug epidemics in the history of humankind.
Cough Medicines of Today
Obviously, cough syrups of the past left something to be desired. But are today’s formulas any better? Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients listed on the labels of today’s cough syrups.
Dextromethorphan is one of the most common active ingredients in cough medications on the market today. While the chemical is considered safe in appropriate doses, abuse of the substance can cause hallucinogenic symptoms.
Prescription cough medications may contain an ingredient known as codeine. Since this addictive substance is often abused, it is included in fewer medications these days.
Many Other Ingredients
If you have a bottle of cough syrup in your house right now, take a look at the label. These medicines contain both active and inactive ingredients, many of them being hard to pronounce. Still, these medicines have been rigorously studied and cleared for safe use in humans, so long as the dose indicated by the doctor or pharmacist is followed by the patient.
What is the Best Cough Syrup?
When it comes to treating coughs, most people really just want to know: what is the best cough syrup or treatment for my symptoms?
Types of Cough Medicines
Generally, common cough treatments fall into 1 of 6 major categories.
How to Manage Coughs
A very recent development in the field of cough diagnosis and management is the use of technology such as smartphone apps. Apps which can analyze and track cough sounds for better disease management.
In an age where respiratory health is referenced in every news article, we need to leverage every tool we have at our disposal. Staying healthy and managing our respiratory symptoms is going to be very important moving forward.