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Many Cold MedicinesDon’t Work, Study Finds

Posted Sep 13 2008 6:52pm

My mom hates most medicines, but when I was growing up she didn’t hesitate to give me cough medicine to help alleviate a bad cough and runny nose.

Cough medicine manufacturers have exploited parents’ inherent need to help a suffering child for a long, long time. Consider the “Dr. Mom” advertisements that show a triumphant mother caring for the entire family with a Robitussin bottle and a spoon.

As a kid, I favored the way Vicks Formula 44D tasted. To be honest, I don’t remember if the stuff worked for me, but the formulations were different back then.*

Here comes the rub: when it comes to controlling congestion, the newer over-the-counter medicines don’t work, reports The Chicago Tribune on a new report. In fact, the common ingredients used for controlling congestion – dextromethorphan and guaifenesin – don’t offer any more relief than sugar water, according to the American College of Chest Physicians. In fact, these ingredients may be dangerous because these drugs can over-sedate children, doctors say.

Ironically, we gave up cold medicines for the exact opposite reason, that the stimulant pseudoephedrine made Seth’s heart speed like a Chevette engine trying to climb a 20 percent grade. So we now only give Children’s Benadryl, which contains diphenhydramine, to Seth at night because it helps him sleep and ease his congestion. It turns out that antihistamine – along with chlorpheniramine and brompheniramine – IS effective, according to the researchers.

If you are not sufficiently irritated to learn that many cough medicines don’t work, get this: “All physicians know this,” Dr. Alan Leff, a pulmonary physician at the University of Chicago, tells The Tribune. “They just don’t think about it much. It falls under ‘it’s not my problem.’ We do have bigger problems, mostly. Saving the sick is much more important than saving the well.”

Well THANKS doctors of America for letting us spend a fortune on worthless medicines that might HARM our kids. I can’t wait to find out what we should cross off our lists next week.

*The FDA warned that phenylpropanolamine, which was used in cold remedies and diet pill, increased the risk of stroke in women and was subsequently removed from most products.

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