Health Female Adda
11 months ago
6 shocking facts about cough syrup you didn’t know about

Nobody thinks twice before buying a bottle of cough syrup. In India, it’s the first line of home treatment for cough, dry or expectorant. Cough syrups are mostly considered safe and everyone from the young to the old swigs it down without giving it another thought. They work either by suppressing the cough reflex or by facilitating easy expulsion of mucous.

Lately, a lot is written about this cold medication and its dubious workings. Many have a reason to believe that cough syrups don’t work at all and it may be loaded with ingredients that may be bad for you and your child. Although the odds of side effects are slim in adults, here are some of the shocking facts about cough syrups you should know about.

1. There are different types 
All cough syrups don’t work in the same manner and may not be effective for some types of cough. Some contain dextromethorphan (DM) or codeine, which suppress the dry cough reflex and others contain antihistamines for allergic cough. Some contain guaifenesin, which clears the airways of mucus.

2. It can erode the teeth
Dr Nandakumar oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Fortis Malar says that not following dental hygiene after having cough syrups can cause cavities. To make them palatable, cough syrups are full of sugars like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose. Oftentimes, people forget to gargle after having a dose of the cough medicine The viscous liquid coats the teeth, leading to bacterial infection and dental caries.

3. It can lead to addiction and psychosis
Some ingredients in the cough syrup could be habit forming like DM. The chemical in the cough syrup is usually safe for consumption if used as directed. But recreational use of DM has been widely reported among youngsters. If you consume large doses of cough syrup containing DM, it can have hallucinatory effects on you. DM abuse can result in psychiatric disturbances in what is dubbed as cough syrup psychosis.1 2 3

4. It may not be effective in children
Some health associations doubt the efficacy of cold medications containing codeine in children. Codeine is an opiate used as a cough suppressant. Some current evidence suggests that it may be no better than a placebo for children.4 Considering that it may have potentially harmful effects, the usage of codeine-containing cough medicine in children has been questioned. The American Academy of Pediatrics bans cough syrup for children who are younger than four years old and Health Canada, the Canadian government’s public health arm, is against using over-the-counter cough medication in children.5

5. Honey may be a more effective and safer option than cough syrup
A 2007 study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine compared the efficiency of honey with DMX for nocturnal cough in children. A hundred children aged 2 to 18 years with upper respiratory tract infections and nocturnal symptoms, lasting for seven days or less were studied. To the surprise of their researchers and their parents, honey worked better than DM in suppressing their children’s cough symptoms.6

6. Cough syrup and antidepressants might be a bad combination
If you are on antidepressants, beware of cough medications containing DM. In an article published in Pediatrics in Review, December 2002 edition, Dr Donald Arnold documented the interaction of cough syrups containing DM with Prozac-like antidepressants. It was found that the combination caused what is known as “Serotonin syndrome,” which causes high body temperature, tremors, dilated pupils, sweating, agitation, increased reflexes and diarrhoea.


1. Amaladoss, A., & O’Brien, S. (2011). Cough syrup psychosis. Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 13(1), 53-56.
2.Miller, S. (2005). Dextromethorphan psychosis, dependence and physical withdrawal. Addiction biology, 10(4), 325-327.
3.Price, L. H., & Lebel, J. (2000). Dextromethorphan-induced psychosis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(2), 304-304.
4. Goldman, R. D. (2010). Codeine for acute cough in children. Canadian Family Physician, 56(12), 1293—1294.
5. Shefrin, A. E., & Goldman, R. D. (2009). Use of over-the-counter cough and cold medications in children. Canadian Family Physician, 55(11), 1081—1083.
6.Paul, I. M., Beiler, J., McMonagle, A., Shaffer, M. L., Duda, L., & Berlin, C. M. (2007). Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 161(12), 1140-1146.

Image source: Shutterstock

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