Does Cough Medicine Really Work?


What do you do when you have a really bad
cough? If you reach for the cough medicine, you’re
not alone. Every year, people spend billions of dollars
on this stuff. But does it work? Coughing is a natural reflex that clears your
airways of anything that’s not supposed to be in there. When some kind of irritant floats into your
nose or mouth, receptors in the airways send signals to your brain, sounding the alarm. Then another message is sent back to your
diaphragm…and you cough at speeds of up to 50 mph. Other mammals do this too. [Cut to puppy coughing video]. Aww. But, what do you do when that cough becomes
more than just annoying? If you were born in the 1800s, your old timey
cough syrup might have consisted of morphine, alcohol, cannabis, chloroform or even HEROIN. Yikes! Fortunately today’s cough medicines contain
a number of more reasonable active ingredients. One or more of these are probably in your
cough medicine. Antitussives like dextromethorphan or DXM,
are meant to block the cough reflex. They can also make you drowsy. Fine if you’re headed to bed. Less fine if you need to drive anywhere….or
need to do anything else for that matter that doesn’t involve sleeping. Deeply. Expectorants like guaifenesin are designed
to loosen and thin the mucus in your lungs, making it easier to cough out the gunk in
your airways. Decongestants like ephedrine… uh… decongest
you by narrowing the blood vessels of the nose, which also relieves congestion. Antihistamines like loratadine reduce swelling
of the nose and throat and decrease the amount of gooey mucus that your lungs secrete when
you have allergies. OK but does any of this stuff actually work? We looked at a few systematic reviews that
asked this question. We at Reactions love us some systematic reviews,
since they analyze evidence from lots of different studies in one place. Their results? There is very little evidence that cough syrup
is effective at treating coughs. And carefully performed clinical trials show
that these medications are generally no better than a placebo. In one review, of the 19 studies analyzed,
15 either showed no benefit, or the results were conflicting. Other reviews had similar findings. They said that there is “no good evidence
for or against the effectiveness of over-the-counter medicines in acute cough.” So there is no guarantee that cough syrup
will do anything for your cough. Though it could help you get a better night’s
sleep. Just don’t try and fix things by taking
a larger dose. Seriously, do not do this. Large doses of DXM can cause dizziness, uncontrollable
eye movement, convulsions and even death…. It’s especially dangerous for young children
— thousands of kids under 12 are sent to the emergency room every year because of accidental
overdoses on cough medicine. Before you ask, apart from any placebo effect,
treatments with echinacea, vitamin C or zinc will probably not help your cough either. Bummer. But, there are some oldies but goodies that
can help with your hacking cough. Drink plenty of fluid. That should help to thin out any extra mucus
and reduce your cough reflex. A humidifier or a steamy shower also helps
reduce congestion. Cough drops get the saliva flowing, which
can soothe your irritated throat (though sucking on regular old hard candy works just as well). What about honey and lemon? Though there’s not a lot of research on
its effectiveness in coughs, a small number of studies suggest some potential benefit
over…not doing anything. And it has been reported to help relieve cough
in kids by soothing the back of the throat. And it tastes great! Especially in hot tea. Tea time! The good news is that most coughs will go
away after a week or two without any treatment. But if that cough lasts more than a few weeks,
see your doctor. Do you have a cough remedy that you swear
by? Let us know in the comments. And remember to hit that subscribe button! If you need me, I’ll be over here with a
lozenge and a humidifier pointed at my face. See you next time.

97 thoughts on “Does Cough Medicine Really Work?

  1. My go-to is honey, lemon, and whiskey. It does taste amazing, soothes the raw throat (which I find helps reduce coughing), and the whiskey … well, does what whiskey does. 😛

  2. i might be the ppl who actually did well w cough medicine. The cough keeps me up at night but meds, i do cough less n am able to sleep

  3. "Fortunately today's cough medicine contains a number of more reasonable active ingredients."

    fortunately my ass! people knew how to have fun back in the days :/ Although a DXM trip is pretty good.

  4. You guys wanna post your sources on the DXM putting people in hospitals and not the crazy amounts of acetaminophen?? Large amounts of anything aren't good for anybody and I'm pretty sure you guys have no real serious agenda, but this is the second time I've watched a video from you guys with misinformation about drugs. (I don't remember which video it was, but there was a lot about drugs in it and there was more misinformation) Either you guys aren't doing your research (which it seems like that's what you guys do….) or someone's IS doing their research and cherry picking information.

  5. Yes, Ivy leaves 🙂
    Citation:
    Schaefer, A., Kehr, M. S., Giannetti, B. M., Bulitta, M., & Staiger, C. (2016). A randomized, controlled, double-blind, multi-center trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a liquid containing ivy leaves dry extract (EA 575®) vs. placebo in the treatment of adults with acute cough. Die Pharmazie-An International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 71(9), 504-509.

  6. Not long ago I had a quite strong cough for a week. Waited another one for it to go away. Since it didn't get any weaker and couldn't get any sleep at night I decided to buy a different syrup than the last time. There were quite high doses for adults, so I drank it all up in 3 days or so (oddly enough, it tasted quite nice). Noticed my cough significantly weakened I decided to buy another bottle which actually did the trick.
    Imho, not every medicine works for everyone and probably most of cheaper / better advertised products are not as effective as others, yet I can't agree with the general premise of this video. Sorry.

  7. Do you even know about lean 😅. American rappers spend thousands if not tens of thousands of euro's on codeïne cough syrup. They mix it with seven up to get a 'high' out of it. Look it up

  8. Cinnamon tea.
    Boil 2-4 cinnamon sticks (Ceylon) in 16oz of water for about 10 minutes. (Bring it to a boil, then simmer.) Then juice a lime, and throw the juice AND the rest of the lime into the simmering tea, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Finally, strain into a mug. Add a little honey. The cinnamon has a nice pain relieving feeling on the throat, and the honey also helps soothe the throat.

  9. More hot tea than usual (british lol) (lemon flavoured tea for placebo if nothing else), maybe some glycerol to coat the back of the throat. The big thing is avoiding letting the throat get dry – so cover your mouth as often as possible with a scarf or something (or your blanket in bed).
    Exhaled breath has a higher water content than inhaled breath, and just like how talking incessantly for hours leaves your throat dry and sore (I feel like it's related to dehydration of the throat lining and allowing pathogens, especially viruses, from the air to get a purchase there), minimising this always leads to a speedy recovery from basic colds and coughs.
    I can't remember the last time I had a cough that lasted more than a day since following this back in high school. (A week+ cough sounds horrible) At the very least, you reduce your potential risk of contaminating someone else 😛

  10. I never cough when I'm sick no matter the sickness because I've trained my willpower to not do so, I'm 29 haven't coughed since i was 10, discipline and willpower prevails, I also don't understand why others cough, why are you all so mentally weak? all a cough is is a nerve electrical impulse/signal from your throat so ignoring it or letting snot/mucus cover that area of the throat prevents it from signalling, you have mucus running down your throat everyday even when not sick so adding a little more or a different type thats a little thicker will do no harm in a trade off for no throat sensations. also if you cough you irritate that area and make it worse and more sensitive so its a never ending chain reaction, logic works wonders.
    edit: ive never taken cough medicine before.

  11. Cough medicine does not cure your cough! It reduces the symptoms and makes you feel better. After all your immune system has to take care of it. It is still worth buying such medicine. Often people who are sick cannot sleep because of it. Cough medicine allows them to do that.

  12. I had swine flu a few years ago, I had a horrible dry cough. But I fixed it, at least for a couple of hours or so at a time. About 40g or so of high cocoa chocolate and it STOPPED, like turning off a switch. The reason it works is because of theobromine, apparently, according to the research, it inhibits the vagus nerve; strong chocolate has loads of it. Made me a bit wired though, theobromine is a stimulant. I didn't try it, but cocoa should work too. Theobromine apparently works better than codeine.

  13. Great video… I love me some awesome info. I like Traditional Medicinal's Throat Coat with slippery elm and licorice in this tea really helps me. http://shop.traditionalmedicinals.com/Throat-Coat/p/TDM-000132&[email protected]

  14. Old timey cough syrup: Worked better as an antitussive and far more fun.

    Also, your facts on DXM causing convulsions at high doses sounds kind of questionable. I've seen people imbibe very large doses of DXM and never suffer convulsions, but maybe if the dose was high enough. It will get you high as hell at higher doses, as all the cool teenagers know, though. 😂 I wouldn't suggest it, but if you must, just make sure you don't try to get high on cough syrup that contains any other drugs than DXM, or those convulsions may become a more likely reality from other drugs present. I remember in the early 00's when Coricidin: HBP was knocking off youngsters left and right. Probably still happens once in a while, but for various reasons I probably don't hear about it as much if it does.

  15. When i have a cough I ear a lot of ginger and anyghing spicy. I put these spices in teas and food.
    I also try to lighty exercise, take a short walk outside or do chores. Even if you're fevery and exhausted, moving a few times a day just for a short time helps coughing out muccus.
    And steamy showers are really good too.

  16. All I know is men are not to go aw in the presence of cuteness, its creepy and hurts your balls(they know it is wrong why don't you?) and the guy doing the voice over emitted a clear aw, that only women cooing over a baby/puppy/kitten/ should make.
    also do not knock the syrup! particularly the good shit that has oh so sweet codeine in it, you will not only forget about that stupid cold but you will forget what light is and time will become a foreign concept, so everyone wins!

  17. Sipping a little salty water fixes coughing for me. If one is worried about lose motion than Gargling salty water will help. I prefer sipping it because it clears my entire throat.

  18. I was really sick today and my dad gave me Advil and cough medicine the medicine was so bad right as it touched my Tate buds I spewed acid vomit.

  19. gotta give it to them. they could've used, red, pink, blue, but they knew damn well that the international color for that LEAN is yurple

  20. I have to be careful of what cough syrups and what cold medicine I have to buy because of my two heart attacks my high blood pressure and my PVCs. Pain in my ass.

  21. I was curious on how cough syrups work, but most videos seem to focus on whether or not it works. You explained both, which was great – thanks!

  22. I generally puncture a small hole in lower section of the lung to let out all the bad blood and mucus.

  23. Boil Coca Cola or steam and orange with some salt. The latter seems better, trust me when your desperate you'd do just about anything.

  24. I don't like the fact you assumed cough=simple cold, and thats all you talk about, and you didn't say what tests were there? But there are cough medicine for cough for smokers, reflux stomach, even lung cancer. And they need to work.

  25. I beg to differ. I get a dry cough once a year and cough medicine has always worked out for me. Without it I feel like I could cough up blood sometimes. And it’s definitely not a placebo effect because I don’t like to take drugs and am generally skeptical of them.

  26. Lol nope! Try this https://youtu.be/_i1czeYxEZM fixes it day one, every time. Wake up feeling geeeuuud with a non-mucous laden throat.

    DR. FEEL GOOD

  27. There is not a cough suppressant that you can buy over the counter that works, it is all 100% garbage and it is expensive.. I do not understand how they can sell a product that claims to do something when it actually doesn't, in my books this is called false advertising..

  28. Thank you for the video: I know a cough syrup that works. Medical Grade Manuka Honey Cough Syrup from ManukaGuard https://www.manukaguard.com/our-products/throat-chest/ or go to CVS and buy live better, Manuka Honey cough syrup. All natural drug free, chemical free. Try it

  29. guaifenesin made me cough up mucus every 5! Minutes. I can’t tell you how impaired quality of my life had become. It doesn’t stop after you stop taking it: it takes the body 3-4 days to rid of this stupid medicine – designed to make MORE MUCUS. I honestly believe it makes respiratory stress even more stressful, I was coughing like I had a TB, I was TIRED from coughing and I just wanted it to stop!!!

  30. My mother forced me to take durotuss (a cough medication) and now I’m annoyed so I’m going on YouTube to look for proof that it doesn’t help at all =w=

  31. I am currently suffering from a really bad cough currently and from my previous experience no cough Syrup ever worked on me.
    But still I bought another one.

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