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Nothing Works for Coughs...

What!? But they sell a bunch of cough medicine over the counter, not to mention all the prescription medication you can take. How about honey or elderberry syrup? What about all the home remedies and other essential oils? Surely, something must work!?

Well, what is a cough anyway? Coughing is a reflexive motion involving the diaphragm muscles as well as collapsing of the airways to clear the bronchial tubes of debris, fluid, or other irritants. It can also be initiated from the epiglottis which gets irritated when you choke on something or something goes down the wrong way. There are a lot of reasons why you might have a cough, and if you can uncover why, you can often fix it.

As for nothing works, I’m talking about the kind of cough you might get with a cold, the flu, or even COVID 19. If you look at actual scientific studies (they control for placebo effect and must show that something that “works” has a better than random chance of working), no matter what adults used for their cough, almost all the coughs were gone in 3 weeks. A teaspoon of honey might work for children, to quiet a cough temporarily. It might be due to it coating some of the receptors and making them less reactive in the throat. Elderberry syrup might work this way as well.

A small study (only 87 people in it) showed naproxen (Aleve) helped if taken at a dose of 500mg three times a day, but since the sample size of the study was so small, it might not be accurate. Also, Umcka in liquid syrup form can work for a short time but might be more due to the coating effect like what we see with honey. Finally, we use Tessalon Perles or benzonatate often for coughs. It does look like it can numb up the nerves that get irritated and may help suppress coughing, but when you study it in trials, it doesn’t do any better than placebo. It also is extremely toxic to children 10 and under!

Myself, I like to drink tea with honey, use Umcka, and some cough drops (cherry!) and for severe cases, maybe use a Hot Toddy! What home remedy do you swear by?

Do you have a family doctor that writes blogs and keeps up with all the new science? I am lucky to be able to have the time to do this because I am a Direct Primary Care Physician. That means, my patients pay me a monthly membership fee, so I don’t need to waste time and money dealing with insurance companies. What I CAN spend my time and money on is YOU! Doing this model enables me to keep up to date by doing lots of Continuning Medical Education, which also costs money! I think that is a better use of it than me having to pay a biller/coder and have me take classes in how to bill correctly, don’t you?

#DPC, @wholefamilydochost


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