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This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

Cough Medicine: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Coughs send more people to the doctor's office than any other specific symptom, according to experts. And Americans spend billions of dollars every year on over-the-counter medications to fight coughs, such as cough suppressants and expectorants.  

Clearly we're concerned about our coughs. Clearly we rely on cough medication. What's unclear is the answer to this core question: Do cough medicines work?

"We've never had good evidence that cough suppressants and expectorants help with cough," says Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer at the American Lung Association. "But people are desperate to get some relief. They're so convinced that they should work that they buy them anyway."

Should you take cough medicine? Here's what you need to know about the pros and cons of common cough medicines.

Cough Medicine: The Evidence

Coughs cause a lot of misery. According to research:

  • Coughs are the reason for more than 30 million doctor visits every year.
  • By some estimates, coughs are the most common medical symptom. 
  • Studies show that acute and chronic coughs reduce a person's quality of life.

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