Trying to ease a cough can be a frustrating experience. If it arrived with a cold or another upper respiratory tract infection, it’s likely to go away eventually, but those 2 or 3 weeks of suffering until it does can be miserable. Way back before the end of the last century, Americans could buy cough medicines that worked. Codeine-containing antitussive syrups were widely available without prescription. Physicians also recommended terpin hydrate, an expectorant, from the late 1800s until the early 1990s. In theory, an expectorant simply loosens up the stuff in the lungs and makes it easier to cough up. But many people found that terpin hydrate offered more benefit.
Home remedies are not intended for a cough that has lasted longer than a few weeks, or one that is accompanied by fever, pain, or other symptoms of serious illness. They are aimed primarily at the annoying but not dangerous cough that often crops up at the tail end of a cold or the “fluâ€ and hangs in there even though the patient is feeling much better otherwise.
When it comes to coughs and colds, be very cautious about medicating children. Although there are lots of products on the market aimed at kids, very few have been tested on children. And often, when they are tested on children, they don’t seem to work very well. For youngsters, less is definitely better.
Codeine-containing cough syrup is one of the most effective remedies for cough. It may be difficult to purchase without a prescription. But if your cough is troubling you, ask your doctor to write one. Don’t overuse it, because it can be constipating.
- Vicks VapoRub, with its familiar aroma of menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus, is worth trying. If you don’t want to put it on your chest, try it on the soles of your feet (under your socks) for a cough-free night.
- Chicken soup with thyme is a comfort food that could help control a cough.
- Several herbal teas may be helpful. Try ginger, mint (menthol), elderflower, or linden flower tea. Sweetening the tea slightly with honey may help the brain’s own opioids kick in to help with that cough.
- Suck on hard candy flavored with licorice or horehound.
- The theobromine found in chocolate is active against cough. Perhaps the best way to get it is to melt a square or two of dark chocolate in your mouth.
- Concord grape juice has its enthusiasts, and very little risk.