Cough Medicine Doesn't Work, May Harm Kids

The above mentioned headline originates from Fox News and is one among the countless stories appearing within the press depending on new guidelines published by the American College of Chest Physicians inside the January 2006 issue of their journal Chest. The policies were also endorsed from the American Thoracic Society and the Canadian Thoracic Society. Inside a January 9, 2006 USA Today story about the guidelines, it was reported that nearly 30 million Americans visit doctors for coughs yearly.

Richard D. Irwin, MD, guidelines committee chair and professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, stated, "There isn't any clinical evidence that over-the-counter cough expectorants or suppressants actually relieve cough." Dr. Irwin also noted, "Over the Counter cough medicines have shown to possess a strong placebo effect, and coughs as a result of colds eventually disappear by themselves." The recommendations concerning children were even stronger. "Cough and cold medicines usually are not beneficial in children and may actually be harmful." stated Irwin. He continued, "In many instances, a cough which is unrelated to chronic lung conditions, environmental influences, or other specific factors, will resolve by itself." The Fox News article reported that there have been hardly any studies done on over-the-counter cough medicines. Additionally they noticed that the majority of the studies were conducted decades ago and involved narcotic products containing codeine. William Brendle Glomb, MD, a pediatric lung specialist who helped write the policies said, "There are big holes in the scientific literature, which is one of them. The products just haven't been studied."

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