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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Cough Medicines a Bust?

Lung Experts: No Evidence Over-the-Counter Cough Medicines Work; May Be Harmful in Kids

Kids and Cough Medicine continued...

"In most cases, a cough that is unrelated to chronic lung conditions, environmental influences, or other specific factors, will resolve on its own."

But pediatric lung specialist William Brendle Glomb, MD, who helped write the new guidelines, tells WebMD that he frequently treats children with products such as Robitussin and will continue to do so.

"I have discussed this with every pediatric pulmonologist that I know, and we all use it," he says. "It works wonderfully to clear the mucus out."

The problem, he says, is that there have been very few studies done on over-the-counter cough medicines, and most were conducted decades ago. Most studies also involved narcotic products containing codeine.

"There are big holes in the scientific literature, and this is one of them," he says. "These products just haven't been studied."

Though he disagrees with some of the wording in the new guidelines, Glomb does agree that coughs in children should not necessarily be treated.

"When children cough it is generally because they need to get out whatever it is that is in there," he says.

Whooping Cough Shot for Adults

The revised guidelines represent the most comprehensive recommendations for the diagnosis and management of cough in adults and children ever published.

"People may think they have to put up with coughs, but they don't," Alberts says. "Coughing is a symptom that something is wrong, but it can be effectively treated with proper medical attention."

For the first time, the guidelines include a "strong recommendation" that adults up to age 65 receive booster vaccinations for whooping cough.

Known medically as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection characterized by coughing so violent that it can lead to choking, vomiting, passing out, and even broken ribs.

Children are routinely vaccinated against the disease, but older versions of the vaccine were too dangerous for use in adults because they could potentially cause serious central nervous system side effects.

Last year, however, the FDA approved a new version of the vaccine that testing has shown to be both safe and effective for use by children over the age of 10 and adults under the age of 65.

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