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Does Cough Medicine Really Work?

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This week Reactions is taking a look at the science of when you're sick. Well, the cough syrup chemistry actually. If you reach for the cherry-flavored cough medicine, you're not alone. Every year, people spend billions of dollars on this stuff. But does any of it actually work? In this episode, we explain the chemistry behind cough medicine, and dig into the evidence to find out which remedies actually work. Find us on all these places: Subscribe! http://bit.ly/ACSReactions Facebook! http://facebook.com/ACSReactions Twitter! http://twitter.com/ACSReactions Tumblr! http://tumblr.com/ACSReactions Writer/Producer: Shelley Sandiford Executive Producer: Adam Dylewski Scientific consultants: Bruce Rubin, Ph.D. Alison Le Kyle Nackers References: Reviews (Cough Medicine): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001831.pub5/abstract http://ebn.bmj.com/content/5/3/78.full.pdf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1325161/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2802352/ http://www.bmj.com/content/324/7333/329.1.full Cough treatments: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000530.pub3/abstract http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/803288 http://www.chestnet.org/Foundation/Patient-Education-Resources/Cough/Treatment-and-Drugs Coughing (general information): https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cough http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012369215528274 http://clinicalgate.com/airway-clearance-therapy/ http://www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2016/05/sneeze-versus-cough.html http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/cough-relief-how-lose-bad-cough#1 http://patient.info/health/cough-medicines Cough reflex in animals: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2882536/ Effects of honey on coughing: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/571638 http://www.cochrane.org/CD007094/ARI_honey-for-acute-cough-in-children Dextromethorphan poisoning: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15563650701606443 Ever wonder why dogs sniff each others' butts? Or how Adderall works? Or whether it's OK to pee in the pool? We've got you covered: Reactions a web series about the chemistry that surrounds you every day. Reactions is produced by the American Chemical Society.
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Text Comments (163)
Wizzle Dizzle (10 days ago)
I beg to differ. I get a dry cough once a year and cough medicine has always worked out for me. Without it I feel like I could cough up blood sometimes. And it’s definitely not a placebo effect because I don’t like to take drugs and am generally skeptical of them.
Heroic Hero (21 days ago)
Two shots of whiskey works as good as anything
Ewen Chen (1 month ago)
Boil Coca Cola or steam and orange with some salt. The latter seems better, trust me when your desperate you'd do just about anything.
Mr. Yuk (1 month ago)
Keats Mcgee (1 month ago)
Can I just ask my doctor to remove my sinuses instead... No mucous no problem
Abdulaziz Sobh (2 months ago)
How are cough treatments done at home: https://www.toevolution.com/blogs/2801-how-are-cough-treatments-done-at-home
Bender Rodriguez (2 months ago)
duh! cough syrup doesn't cure you, It just soothes you, dummie!
SpongePlayz (4 months ago)
It’s full of sugar it’s bullshit
Czesnek (4 months ago)
I am using Stodal and it is making easier for me to cough mucus out.
Andy Garag (5 months ago)
I generally puncture a small hole in lower section of the lung to let out all the bad blood and mucus.
Wumbology (6 months ago)
I was curious on how cough syrups work, but most videos seem to focus on whether or not it works. You explained both, which was great - thanks!
Peter Wexler (9 months ago)
DXM absolutely DOES work! It's the only thing that brings a few hours of relief from a nagging cough. The efficacy of other medicines is much shorter in duration.
Jon Bongo (9 months ago)
I have to be careful of what cough syrups and what cold medicine I have to buy because of my two heart attacks my high blood pressure and my PVCs. Pain in my ass.
bowie funtime (9 months ago)
please help because of my dad cough & coughing out blood o_o  ;_;
charliee copee (9 months ago)
bowie funtime Go to the doctor. Don’t worry to much but definitely go to the doctor. They will probably give you some tablets to take and make your cough less worse.
Anjali Borah (11 months ago)
I am having cough for more than 1 year what should i do pls..... Tell
Ravi chandra Bhushan (6 months ago)
Anjali Borah
George Schlaline (11 months ago)
don't make fun
Noor Alshamari (11 months ago)
yes and i had it for 5 weeks
Phương Trịnh Thị (11 months ago)
Here are the top best cough remedies: https://benhhohap.vn/danh-gia-top-5-loai-thuoc-ho-bo-phe-dang-duoc-ua-chuong-nhat.html
Elroy the Dumb (1 year ago)
This stuff taste like shit, It's horrible
Charles Matthews (1 year ago)
I love your style guys.
ESSBrew (1 year ago)
Old NyQuil with pseudoephedrine in it always worked for me. Would make me not cough for about 5 hours. Was great stuff
Dual lands (1 year ago)
PseudoE clear airways too, or meth if you want to have fun.
the true gamer (1 year ago)
lean double cup
T H I C C (1 year ago)
Dylan [Smith] (1 year ago)
The cough medicine I bought doesn't seem to work well, but the cough drops I got worked ok.
Mr3344555 (1 year ago)
gotta give it to them. they could've used, red, pink, blue, but they knew damn well that the international color for that LEAN is yurple
DeathBorn (1 year ago)
The swedish medicine worked on me, I was so damn relaxed and it felt great..
Busy Chikin (1 year ago)
I was really sick today and my dad gave me Advil and cough medicine the medicine was so bad right as it touched my Tate buds I spewed acid vomit.
David Crandall (1 year ago)
Well, he say's they don't work.
Lee (1 year ago)
What type of software do you use to create video annimations like this?
Lee (1 year ago)
Thanks! 👍🏽
Reactions (1 year ago)
We use Adobe After Effects
Ryan M-W (1 year ago)
Well that explains some things.
kevinvvn (1 year ago)
Sipping a little salty water fixes coughing for me. If one is worried about lose motion than Gargling salty water will help. I prefer sipping it because it clears my entire throat.
Swagfagwithswag (1 year ago)
ya im sure those cough medicine overdoses were definitely "accidental"
Are you qualified to give medical advice?
yaswanth jaya kumar (1 year ago)
Don't think honey in hot tea is good, does the honey not stick to the throat when it is consumed hot?
Azel P (1 year ago)
All I know is men are not to go aw in the presence of cuteness, its creepy and hurts your balls(they know it is wrong why don't you?) and the guy doing the voice over emitted a clear aw, that only women cooing over a baby/puppy/kitten/ should make. also do not knock the syrup! particularly the good shit that has oh so sweet codeine in it, you will not only forget about that stupid cold but you will forget what light is and time will become a foreign concept, so everyone wins!
Brad Wandler (1 year ago)
What are the studies being cited in this video?
Brad Wandler (1 year ago)
Thank you!
Reactions (1 year ago)
As with all of our recent videos (past year or so) click the "SHOW MORE" button to expand the video summary. Our references are posted there. All of our videos are internally checked and sent to an external expert to check over as well.
Mathieu Leader (1 year ago)
what about Lemon sips
Lea Küchler (1 year ago)
When i have a cough I ear a lot of ginger and anyghing spicy. I put these spices in teas and food. I also try to lighty exercise, take a short walk outside or do chores. Even if you're fevery and exhausted, moving a few times a day just for a short time helps coughing out muccus. And steamy showers are really good too.
mcrazza (1 year ago)
Cocaine works.
Bender Rodriguez (2 months ago)
that shit screws up your immune system
daddylira (1 year ago)
Tequila and lemon
Derrick James (1 year ago)
fluids, rest, laughter. Fixes almost anything
Jim Boyles (1 year ago)
Old timey cough syrup: Worked better as an antitussive and far more fun. Also, your facts on DXM causing convulsions at high doses sounds kind of questionable. I've seen people imbibe very large doses of DXM and never suffer convulsions, but maybe if the dose was high enough. It will get you high as hell at higher doses, as all the cool teenagers know, though. 😂 I wouldn't suggest it, but if you must, just make sure you don't try to get high on cough syrup that contains any other drugs than DXM, or those convulsions may become a more likely reality from other drugs present. I remember in the early 00's when Coricidin: HBP was knocking off youngsters left and right. Probably still happens once in a while, but for various reasons I probably don't hear about it as much if it does.
Skyler Brockmoller (1 year ago)
Is the person on the thumbnail smoking a blunt?
B R Y A N (9 months ago)
Its a thermometer 😂 I think
DaddyDickleBerry 9000 (10 months ago)
Skyler Brockmoller looks like it
James Manon (1 year ago)
Great video... I love me some awesome info. I like Traditional Medicinal's Throat Coat with slippery elm and licorice in this tea really helps me. http://shop.traditionalmedicinals.com/Throat-Coat/p/TDM-000132&c=TraditionalMedicinals@BestSellers
BooBaddyBig (1 year ago)
I had swine flu a few years ago, I had a horrible dry cough. But I fixed it, at least for a couple of hours or so at a time. About 40g or so of high cocoa chocolate and it STOPPED, like turning off a switch. The reason it works is because of theobromine, apparently, according to the research, it inhibits the vagus nerve; strong chocolate has loads of it. Made me a bit wired though, theobromine is a stimulant. I didn't try it, but cocoa should work too. Theobromine apparently works better than codeine.
Danyal A. (1 year ago)
Cough medicine does not cure your cough! It reduces the symptoms and makes you feel better. After all your immune system has to take care of it. It is still worth buying such medicine. Often people who are sick cannot sleep because of it. Cough medicine allows them to do that.
lol when you argue over coughs on the internet
I think this video is flawed and irresponsible. How can a person dish out medical advice online like that?
Danyal A. (1 year ago)
+sengelbr I swear you are fucking retarded. Read my comments and replies again please.
sengelbr (1 year ago)
Danyal A. Exactly....your inability to make a point. Why do you keep squirming and changing your story? Tough when you can't stick to a point eh? LOL
Danyal A. (1 year ago)
+sengelbr So.... when exactly did I say that cough medicine 'cures' the cough? I said "despite its inability to 'cure' the cough"... INABILITY.
ShamelessMan (1 year ago)
"More research needed" = useless time-wasting video.
Stoogie (1 year ago)
I never cough when I'm sick no matter the sickness because I've trained my willpower to not do so, I'm 29 haven't coughed since i was 10, discipline and willpower prevails, I also don't understand why others cough, why are you all so mentally weak? all a cough is is a nerve electrical impulse/signal from your throat so ignoring it or letting snot/mucus cover that area of the throat prevents it from signalling, you have mucus running down your throat everyday even when not sick so adding a little more or a different type thats a little thicker will do no harm in a trade off for no throat sensations. also if you cough you irritate that area and make it worse and more sensitive so its a never ending chain reaction, logic works wonders. edit: ive never taken cough medicine before.
Christian Romero (1 month ago)
I cough because I think it will help me get over the sickness.
Guddammit (6 months ago)
Stoogie ummm....hehe that’s bad
Joaquin Martinez (7 months ago)
Stoogie lmao great post
Ryan Yang (1 year ago)
*puts tin foil hat on*
That's bad for you
loki s (1 year ago)
cough syrup works.
sephirothsoul999 (1 year ago)
More hot tea than usual (british lol) (lemon flavoured tea for placebo if nothing else), maybe some glycerol to coat the back of the throat. The big thing is avoiding letting the throat get dry - so cover your mouth as often as possible with a scarf or something (or your blanket in bed). Exhaled breath has a higher water content than inhaled breath, and just like how talking incessantly for hours leaves your throat dry and sore (I feel like it's related to dehydration of the throat lining and allowing pathogens, especially viruses, from the air to get a purchase there), minimising this always leads to a speedy recovery from basic colds and coughs. I can't remember the last time I had a cough that lasted more than a day since following this back in high school. (A week+ cough sounds horrible) At the very least, you reduce your potential risk of contaminating someone else :P
ARythemB (1 year ago)
no liquid cough medicine will ever help for coughing, no logic to it
Leah Prewitt (1 year ago)
The old type with codeine did help because opioids suppress the cough reflex, but they don't sell that kind over the counter, and it's considered healthier to cough than not to-better out than in theory.
Mike Z (1 year ago)
Cinnamon tea. Boil 2-4 cinnamon sticks (Ceylon) in 16oz of water for about 10 minutes. (Bring it to a boil, then simmer.) Then juice a lime, and throw the juice AND the rest of the lime into the simmering tea, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Finally, strain into a mug. Add a little honey. The cinnamon has a nice pain relieving feeling on the throat, and the honey also helps soothe the throat.
Marsel Atanasoff (1 year ago)
Pretty much confirms everything I've known. Hydrate plenty and take something for the throat irritation (hard candy, drops, honey, most of them will soothe you), and I can't stress enough how important it is to use a nasal spray. Mucous is mostly formed in your sinuses and drips down your airways. If you lessen the mucous production of your sinuses you will most definitely have an easier time overall, but don't overdo it, because nasal sprays are addictive and can harm your overall health if you dry out your sinuses too much.
WalkthroughUnlimited (1 year ago)
Do you even know about lean 😅. American rappers spend thousands if not tens of thousands of euro's on codeïne cough syrup. They mix it with seven up to get a 'high' out of it. Look it up
WalkthroughUnlimited (1 year ago)
#dreA.M. KingDre same as 7up. Mountain Dew as well
#dreA.M. KingDre (1 year ago)
WalkthroughUnlimited sprite***
Logan Wiebelhaus (1 year ago)
U need dat cod/prometh
MystalurDimensh (1 year ago)
Not long ago I had a quite strong cough for a week. Waited another one for it to go away. Since it didn't get any weaker and couldn't get any sleep at night I decided to buy a *different* syrup than the last time. There were quite high doses for adults, so I drank it all up in 3 days or so (oddly enough, it tasted quite nice). Noticed my cough significantly weakened I decided to buy another bottle which actually did the trick. Imho, not every medicine works for everyone and probably most of cheaper / better advertised products are not as effective as others, yet I can't agree with the general premise of this video. Sorry.
JRSaroj (1 year ago)
nice video good analysis
ahmed yassine (1 year ago)
Yes, Ivy leaves :) Citation: Schaefer, A., Kehr, M. S., Giannetti, B. M., Bulitta, M., & Staiger, C. (2016). A randomized, controlled, double-blind, multi-center trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a liquid containing ivy leaves dry extract (EA 575®) vs. placebo in the treatment of adults with acute cough. Die Pharmazie-An International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 71(9), 504-509.
ahmed yassine (1 year ago)
Citation below comment.
Chet Coenen (1 year ago)
What type of ivy?
Smokkedandslammed (1 year ago)
You guys wanna post your sources on the DXM putting people in hospitals and not the crazy amounts of acetaminophen?? Large amounts of anything aren't good for anybody and I'm pretty sure you guys have no real serious agenda, but this is the second time I've watched a video from you guys with misinformation about drugs. (I don't remember which video it was, but there was a lot about drugs in it and there was more misinformation) Either you guys aren't doing your research (which it seems like that's what you guys do....) or someone's IS doing their research and cherry picking information.
Lalit Verma (1 year ago)
sengelbr (1 year ago)
Smokkedandslammed We'll who picked your username? You, right dummazzz? LOL
Smokkedandslammed (1 year ago)
sengelbr Hahahaha damn fella, you seem to be quite stuck on my username. Since you have such a chubby for it, i used to have a lowered car that was blacked out (tint, turn signals, brake lights). Nothing to do with cannabis. (cue: ya right dummazzzzzz, its about drugzzz) This has to be the dumbest interaction I've ever had on the internet
sengelbr (1 year ago)
Smokkedandslammed Hahhaha and who picks a public name called "smokedandslammed"??? You obviously picked a name your comfortable with, right? I mean, no one forced you to pick such a dummazzz name right? "Smokedandslammed " says it all! Dope, weed, pot....whatever your comfortable with dumbazzz!
Smokkedandslammed (1 year ago)
sengelbr Hahahaha who calls it dope any more??? 😂 Again, no thoughtful discussion on anything, just name calling and ignorance. Maybe you should go find some 'dope" and chill out buddy, go read up on DXM and get back to me. You go have a great day champ. 👍
Hiraeth Neko-chan (1 year ago)
My cough has been here for already more than 2 months. Should I be concerned?
Raj Rani (1 year ago)
Hiraeth Neko-chan .
Time traveler11 (1 year ago)
Luke Skywalker WebMD?
Luke Skywalker (1 year ago)
Reactions (1 year ago)
For persistent coughs lasting more than a few weeks, it's always best to check with a doctor. They can figure out the underlying cause of a cough, along with the best way to treat it.
Nilesh Aggarwal (1 year ago)
What a coincidence , I have cough rn XD
"Fortunately today's cough medicine contains a number of more reasonable active ingredients." fortunately my ass! people knew how to have fun back in the days :/ Although a DXM trip is pretty good.
Smoothbluehero (1 year ago)
Yo Reactions! Where is mah vid on pink Himalayan salt? Pretty please khemical-sempai!
Stoogie (1 year ago)
I also eat nori every 1-2 days. Also there is iodine in all your foods, fish, bread, milk, i easily get over the RDI without Iodine salt.
Stoogie (1 year ago)
i have 1/3rd of this a day sometimes double every now and then , it has iodine as kelp: http://au.bodybuilding.com/store/opt/men.html?&_requestid=2169220
Smoothbluehero (1 year ago)
+Stoogie But that natural sea salt probably doesn't contain added iodine, which your body needs and doesn't really get from anywhere else. Table salt and sea salt are basically the same except table salt has anti-clumping agents which I don't think are harmful, and added iodine, which is necessary for your health.
Stoogie (1 year ago)
the only salt i add is natural sea salt, i avoid table salt since its worse for you, i also dont eat any junk food or foods with added salt.
Smoothbluehero (1 year ago)
+Stoogie From what I understand, there are no negative health affect, but there are neither any positive health affects (besides being a source of sodium). I think table salt is probably better because they iodize it. You need iodine.
MyHerpes Itch (1 year ago)
i might be the ppl who actually did well w cough medicine. The cough keeps me up at night but meds, i do cough less n am able to sleep
olive4naito (1 year ago)
MyHerpes Itch Could be the sedative included in night time formulas.
German Eagle (1 year ago)
could be placebo effect. But as long as it's working for you, use it.
SoulBladeM (1 year ago)
What about Butamirate?
Mark Darlington (1 year ago)
Chopped onion, honey garlic and ginger... Homemade cough remedy
Thomast Tham (1 year ago)
+Mark Darlington do I have to boil them up first?
Mark Darlington (1 year ago)
Thomast Tham normally leave cold and use like a cough syrup
Yarumi Leon (1 year ago)
Thomast Tham boil it in water for 3 minutes let simmer for 5 drink up
Thomast Tham (1 year ago)
Mark Darlington how to prepare and consume it? drink it..or just smell it? or make into a soup?
Jim Thompson (1 year ago)
I've seen places recommend pineapple for the enzyme bromaline as an antitussive. Never really tried it myself.
Mards (1 year ago)
Codeine number one
sooooooooDark (1 year ago)
my tip: dont be around plebs too much they catch colds first
razercord (1 year ago)
the true gamer (1 year ago)
razercord facts bro
Matthew Feiteira (1 year ago)
My go-to is honey, lemon, and whiskey. It does taste amazing, soothes the raw throat (which I find helps reduce coughing), and the whiskey ... well, does what whiskey does. :P
Ali Alrashidi (11 months ago)
HeliosXII most religions prohibits alcohol , also alcohol is bad for your health
curldivgrad (1 year ago)
what is the name of that glassware shown at 2:08?
curldivgrad (1 year ago)
Thank you!!
teeboytel (1 year ago)
Separatory Funnel
Brad Skurt (1 year ago)
Lozenges are a must
Smoothbluehero (1 year ago)
meme polygon
J!nkX (1 year ago)
neo geo (1 year ago)
Most of it is bullshit
Thomas Balezantis (1 year ago)

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