Cough medicines are also called antitussive and are classified based on their mechanism of reducing cough. They are as follows:
Central cough suppressants such as codeine, antihistamine, dextromethorphan, and benzonatate.
Pharyngeal demulcents: Cough drops and linctuses.
Expectorants: Ammonium chloride and potassium iodide.
Bronchodilators: Salbutamol and terbutaline.
Mucolytics: Bromhexine and ambroxol.
Central cough suppressants are drugs that act by inhibiting the cough center present in the medulla. Codeine is one of the most common antitussives that have less addiction liability. However, nausea, constipation, and drowsiness after consuming codeine are common. Another drug called noscapine is also a potent cough suppressor whose only side effect is nausea. Pholcodine and dextromethorphan are opioid derivatives that are synthetically made and have the effects of reducing cough. Pholcodine is a longer-acting drug that is given twice daily. Benzonatate is a chemical drug related to local anesthetic procaine, which acts on the cough receptors of the lungs and acts centrally. Antihistamines are drugs that are used when the cough is due to an allergy. It does not work on coughs caused by bronchial asthma.
Pharyngeal Demulcents and Expectorants
Pharyngeal demulcents are drugs that enhance saliva secretion, which provides a calming effect to the mucosa present at the pharynx. In Latin, the word demulcere means to caress soothingly. These drugs also reduce the afferent or the sensory impulses from the irritated mucosa. Dry cough, which is caused due to irritated mucosa, is relieved with the help of pharyngeal demulcents. The phases of cough include irritation, inspiration, compression, and expulsion.
Respiratory tract secretions could be increased with the help of drugs called expectorants. These drugs make the secretions less viscid and thin, which makes it easier to cough them out. The types of expectorants are as follows:
Direct Stimulants: These promote the secretions in the respiratory tract directly. Creosotes, eucalyptus oil, and cedarwood oil, when given with steam inhalation, helps to increase respiratory secretions.
Reflex expectorants, which are gastric irritants, help in increasing the respiratory secretions with reflex.
A drug could act both with reflex and directly, such as potassium iodide.
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