Many people are suffering from persistant coughs this winter. However, scientists have now said that cough medicines are pretty much useless. A review has found that over the counter medicines will not combat a hacking cough.
Medics say that cough medicines bought from a pharmacy or picked up from supermarket shelves, are only slightly more effective than a placebo. Meanwhile, other remedies popular for warding off a cold, including echinacea, vitamin C and zinc are not likely to do any good.
Research has revealed that in 15 out of 19 cases examined, cough medicine had either no benefit at all or results were not conclusive. According to the study, carried out by the American Chemical Society, all that people taking cough medicine from a pharmacy shelf can expect is to feel a bit drowsy, which could mean they get a better night’s sleep.
Cough drops were, however, shown to work. However, that was only because they had a soothing effect on sore throats and the same impact would be enjoyed by those who sucked on boiled sweets. Honey and lemon was also found to be soothing for children suffering from a cough. However, it should not be given to youngsters under the age of 12 months.
Currently, the market for cold, cough and sore throat medicines is worth a staggering £400m annually. Ingredients commonly used include dextromethorphan (DXM), which blocks the cough reflex but can also make patients feel sleepy.
However, John Smith, CEO of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which looks after the interests of over the counter medicine makers, said it was hard to test how effective treatments were because there were so many different types of cough. However, he also added that patients should not buy cough treatments believing that they would provide a cough cure. They are designed to relieve symptoms rather than provide a cure.