VITAL SIGNS: PATTERNS; Cough Syrup Is Usually No Sure Cure
A review of research into over-the-counter cough medicines published in The British Medical Journal found little evidence that they make much of a difference.
The review, conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol, looked at 15 studies involving 2,166 patients that compared the effect of the medicines with a placebo syrup. In nine of the studies, including the only two that looked solely at antihistamines, the cough medicines appeared to be no more helpful than the plain syrup.
The data from most of the other studies were contradictory, the article said. The only exception was on mucolytics -- medicines that dilute phlegm to make it easier to clear one's airways. The single controlled study on the subject found that they did reduce frequency of coughing compared with a placebo.
The study's lead researcher, Dr. Knut Schroeder, offered some advice for a bad cough: ''One, be aware that most coughs are not serious and disappear within two to three weeks. Two, plenty of fluids to keep the throat moist and help your body to get rid of the germs. Three, relative rest, i.e. reduce your sporting activities until the cough has settled. Four, honey and lemon -- cheap and soothing.''
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