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Treating a Dry Cough


By Staff Writer

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Dry CoughDry or hacking coughs are called nonproductive coughs. Over-the-counter cough suppressants (antitussives) can provide relief. They're especially helpful if your cough keeps you awake at night. Cough suppressants are available in the form of oral medications like Robitussin® syrup and chest rubs like Vicks® VapoRub®. Many oral cough suppressants contain the active ingredient dextromethorphan, which works in the cough center of the brain to calm the urge to cough. Although most people tolerate it well, it can cause slight drowsiness and upset stomach. It may also cause serious interactions with a class of prescription medicines called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). If you take an MAOI, do not take products containing dextromethorphan. Chest-rubs often contain anesthetic or numbing agents called camphor or menthol. Vapors you inhale from chest rubs may numb the throat to relieve coughs. Be sure to use a chest rub externally: do not ingest it. You can also suck on cough drops or hard candy and drink lots of fluids to help relieve dry coughs. There are certain prescription medicines your doctor may prescribe if your cough persists. See your health care provider if your cough lasts for more than a week or if you also have a fever, rash or headache.

Sources: Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. William Morrow & Co., 1996.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.Mitchelson F. “Which Cough Mixture”, Australian Family Physician 27 (1998).Drug Facts and Comparisons. Facts & Comparisons, 2006.Medline Plus. Medline, 2006.This answer prepared 6/2/2000.This information updated 12/14/2006.

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