The Pharmacist Says…Understand Cough and Congestion

This article was originally written by J. Wesley Cantrell

Click here for a complete directory of pet friendly hotels _4688.shtml
date_saved:2007-07-25 12:30:12

Today, there are numerous oral cough and congestion medications available at the neighborhood drug store. The list of medications can be overwhelming to patients. Organizing these medications into 4 categories simplifies the process of choosing a medication and preventing drug interactions and reactions.
The categories are:
1. Antihistamines
2. Decongestants
3. Cough Suppressants
4. Expectorants
Antihistamines are used for allergy symptoms and relief of a runny nose. Some common antihistamines are diphenhydramine (Benadryl), loratadine (Claritin), and chlopheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton). Benadryl causes drowsiness and is used in several OTC sleep medications (for example, Tylenol PM). Benadryl is also used as an antitussive in some OTC cough medications (Benylin). Exercise caution after taking Benadryl because of the sedation associated with it. Claritin is a nonsedating antihistamine.
Decongestants are used to relieve nasal stuffiness or congestion. Decongestants can also relieve pressure in the ears. Some common decongestants are pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine (Sudafed PE). Decongestants can elevate blood pressure. Patients should consult their physician before taking any decongestants.
Cough suppressants are used to relieve cough. Some common cough suppressants are dextromethoraphan (used in Robitussin DM) and diphenhydramine (Benylin).
Expectorants are used to thin secretions. A common expectorant is guaifenesin (Mucinex). Water also acts as a natural mycolytic by thining out the secretions.
Cough and congestion medications contain one or more of these categories. For example, some medications contain a cough suppressant and an antihistamine. It is very important to check the medication’s active ingredients box to determine what is contained in the medication.
Always check with you doctor or pharmacist before taking a cough and congestion medication if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, trouble urinating due to an enlarged prostate, or had an obstruction or narrowing of the bowel. Also, do not take any cold medications if you are taking a Monamine Oxidase Inhibitor (Certain drugs used for depression, psychiatric, or emotional conditions, or Parkinson’s disease), or for 2 weeks after stopping the MAOI drug. If you do not know if your prescription drug contains a MAOI, ask your doctor or pharmacist.