Allergy Meds Better For Treating Coughs


coughsThe average adult gets two to four colds a year, and if they're around children, it doubles. While there is a whole host of medications claiming to make your cough better, new research finds many don't work. A new study finds more effective help may be available from some unlikely candidates.

Cough medicines are a multi-billion-dollar industry. The vast assortment is nothing to sneeze at, but what has confused many patients is recent research which found many of these cough medicines don't work for most coughs.

Dr. Richard Irwin headed up a worldwide study. He found expectorants -- medicines that help remove mucus -- and the newer non-drowsy medicines are ineffective against cough caused by the common cold.


Cough suppressants like codeine and dextromethorphan didn't work either, but they may be effective against coughs caused by other conditions.

Richard Irwin, M.D., pulmonologist: "Interestingly enough for the common cold, the older antihistamines seem to work."

That's right -- to effectively treat your cough doctors say ignore the cough drugs and take an allergy decongestant medication because it turns out they can help reduce coughing.

Several older antihistamines like Benadryl and Drixoral help cut down secretions that trigger coughs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve and Advil help suppress coughs, but may upset your stomach as well. Doctors say many patients often feel their cough drugs work, but that's often a placebo effect.

Dr. Richard Irwin: "And just the thought that you think something is going to help you makes you feel a little bit better."

Maureen Corapi, cough patient: "It's really surprising because you think as time goes on they get better and better things, not things that get further and further away from what really works."

After Maureen's switched to an allergy medication, she's finally feeling better.

One major problem is that many antihistamines have been linked to methamphetamine production so makers have changed their formula. If they still have their original formula, government regulations require, you have to ask the pharmacist for them.

Copyright 2006, ABC7/KGO-TV/DT