Commonly Used Medicines for Cough & Cold

Common cold and cough are one of the most common respiratory symptoms. Most of us catch a cold or cough at least once a year. For some, the symptoms are mild and resolve in 2-3 days on their own or with simple home remedies, while for some, the symptoms can be troublesome and may need to be taken care of with medicines.

Many times people may show only one symptom, like just a cough, runny nose, sneezing or sore throat, which could range from mild to severe. On the other hand, some people may show multiple symptoms, such as the combination of all the above-mentioned symptoms with some additional symptoms like fever and body pain.

Hence, it becomes necessary to take the right medicine based on your symptoms. Taking unnecessary or irrational medicines may show side effects and can be dangerous, especially in children and the elderly. 

To manage multiple symptoms of cold and cough, combination medicines have become popular due to their widespread benefits.

Benefits of combination therapy over single therapy:

  • Faster recovery
  • Lesser side effects
  • Pocket-friendly approach
  • Better adherence to medicines

Commonly used medicines for cough:

The cough is one of the defense mechanisms of our body. It helps to remove foreign particles from our throat and respiratory tract.

Cough is mainly classified into two types: dry cough and wet cough.

Dry cough, also called non-productive cough, is caused due to itching and irritation in the throat. Most dry coughs are due to allergies. It is also commonly seen in people with asthma.

Wet cough, also called productive cough, is caused when there is excess mucus buildup in the throat, airways or lungs. Mucus buildup in the throat and airways become thick over time, making it difficult to remove.   

Let’s see the most commonly used cough medicines for kids and adults.  

  1. For wet cough:

Expectorants and mucolytics.

Expectorants are medicines that help to increase salivary secretions so that the mucus can be easily expelled or removed from the throat.  

Commonly used expectorants include guaifenesin, sodium or potassium citrate and ammonium chloride.

Mucolytics, as the name suggests, are medicines that help to break the thick mucus in the respiratory tract.

The most commonly used mucolytic agents include ambroxol, bromhexine and acetylcysteine.

  1. For dry cough:

Antitussives- These medicines are commonly used for dry cough. These medicines help to suppress the cough response by acting on the cough receptors in the brain.

The most commonly used antitussive agents include codeine (opioid), dextromethorphan, and chlophedianol.  

Commonly used medicines for cold:

The most common symptoms associated with a cold are a blocked or runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and post-nasal drip. Based on the symptoms, different medicines can be helpful.

Antihistamines- These medicines help to block the action of histamine in our body, which is mainly responsible for allergic symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and itching and irritation in the nose and eyes.

Commonly used antihistamines include levocetirizine, chlorpheniramine maleate, and fexofenadine. 

Nasal decongestants- These medicines are used to keep the nasal area open by decongesting the clogged nasal passage.

Commonly used nasal decongestants include- oxymetazoline and phenylephrine.

Saline nasal spray- It is among the safest nasal spray used to manage cold symptoms. It helps to keep the nasal area moist and also removes all the dust and foreign particles from the nasal area.  

Additional medicines used for cough and cold:

People with cold and cough can sometimes even have a sore throat, fever and body pain. Most combination medicines for cold contain a pain reliever. Paracetamol is a pain reliever and fever reducer.

Lozenges are widely used to manage a sore throat. It contains antiseptics and soothing ingredients like glycerin or honey that help to reduce irritation and itching in the throat. Honey and glycerin form a coat on the throat and prevents further irritation to the throat. They usually come as candy with orange or lemon flavour.

What medicines should be avoided when you are on combination medicine for cough and cold?

As cough and cold usually come with multiple symptoms, your doctor or pharmacist may prescribe you a single medicine that has a combination of three to four medicines. This combination medicine can manage both cough and cold symptoms. But without knowing the ingredients, you may tend to take an extra medicine which contains the same ingredient as that in a combination medicine. This may lead to an overdose of a drug which can cause dose-related side effects. Some combination medicines for cold may also contain fever and pain-reducing ingredients like paracetamol. 

So, next time you are having a cough or cold, see the ingredient list of the medicine you are taking and make sure you are not taking multiple medicines for the same problem.






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