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American Chemistry Society Asks: Does Cough Medicine Really Work?

It’s by the American Chemistry Society.

Have you ever sucked back a huge glob of cough syrup and then waited in bed, still hacking, and thought to yourself, “Is it working yet?” According to a video created by the American Chemistry Society’s Reactions YouTube channel, you’re not alone. According to Reactions, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that over-the-counter cough syrup works at all.


Reactions came to this conclusion by analyzing systematic reviews which compared data from multiple studies. This meta-analysis found there’s very little evidence that cough syrup is effective at treating coughs. Clinical trials also show that these medications generally do no better than a placebo. In one systematic review, 15 out of 19 studies showed there was no benefit to using cough syrup or the results were conflicting. Also, popular remedies echinacea, vitamin C or zinc haven’t been found to reduce coughing either.

Reactions did provide three tried-and-true methods to reduce coughing:

1.) Drinking plenty of fluids will help thin out excess mucous and reduce your cough reflex

2.) A humidifier or steamy shower can help reduce congestion

3.) Cough drops will increase saliva production to soothe your irritated throat

As with any medical advice, consult your doctor before putting it to practice.

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