Phenol or Benzocaine (found in Cepastat or Cepacol Lozenges, or Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray & Gargle)-numbs the throat tissues temporarily and reduces discomfort. It is important to distinguish among the effects of the different ingredients in throat lozenges.
There are three main types of throat lozenges: lozenges with a weak topical anesthetic, lozenges with menthol, and unmedicated lozenges. A minor sore throat can be treated just as effectively with less expensive acetaminophen (found in Tylenol) and a warm salt water gargle. Lozenges with a topical anesthetic
These lozenges release a weak topical anesthetic as they dissolve. The effect of this is that the anesthetic will sometimes numb everything in your mouth, especially your tongue. Examples of this type of medication include:
- Cepastat-Sore Throat Lozenges -
regular strength lozenges contain 14.5 mg Phenol
extra strength lozenges contain 29 mg Phenol
- Cepacol-Anesthetic Lozenges -
regular strength lozenges contain 10 mg Benzocaine and 0.07% Ceepryn
- Sucrets -
regular strength lozenges contain 2.0 mg Dyclonine Hydrochloride (an anesthetic)
maximum strength lozenges contain 3.0 mg Dyclonine Hydrochloride
- Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray & Gargle -
This product, like the lozenges, is used for the temporary relief of minor throat
or mouth pain; it contains 1.4% Phenol. Menthol lozenges
Menthol provides a cooling sensation to aid in symptomatic relief of minor throat irritations. Menthol does not numb other parts of your mouth like the topical anesthetics. It provides relief mainly through the cooling sensation. Examples of this type of medication include:
- Cepacol-Dry Throat Lozenges -
different regular strength flavors contain 3.6-5.0 mg Menthol
- N'Ice-Medicated Sore Throat and Cough Lozenges -
regular strength lozenges contain 5.0 mg Menthol
- Halls Mentho-Lyptus Cough Suppressant Tablets -
regular strength tablets contain less than 10 mg Menthol
maximum strength tablets contain 10 mg Menthol Unmedicated lozenges
Unmedicated lozenges, such as Hall's Vitamin C Drops, do not contain any medication. The bitter flavor causes your mouth to produce more saliva and, thus, keep your throat moister. This will help especially if you have a dry cough, but does not always have the same effects as a lozenge with menthol or benzocaine. The effects of unmedicated lozenges can also be achieved by drinking large amounts of water.
Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are the two major active ingredients that will help reduce fevers. Young adults should avoid taking aspirin for cold symptoms. Aspirin, which contains salicylates, has been implicated in the development of Reye Syndrome, an uncommon, but serious complication of viral illnesses, such as colds, in children and young adults.
- Acetaminophen (Found in Tylenol) -
used as an antipyretic (fever reducer) and an analgesic (pain reliever).
CAUTION: Side effects are rare if taken as directed.
- Ibuprofen (Found in Nuprin, Advil and Motrin) -
used as an antipyretic (fever reducer), analgesic (pain reliever), and anti-inflammatory medication. Generic ibuprofen is fine.
CAUTION: Side effects include stomach irritation; take with food, milk, or large amounts of water. Do not use if allergic to aspirin.
Good hydration is the place to start. Water and clear liquids are good decongestants in and of themselves so DRINK!
There are several different active ingredients that will relieve nasal congestion. Pseudoephedrine is one of the most common.
Pseudoephedrine (Found in Sudafed)
- Decongests nasal membranes by shrinking the blood vessels and swollen membranes. It will NOT make you drowsy because it does not contain an antihistamine. It may make you feel "hyper", though. Do not take before bed, switch to actifed or check with a doctor or nurse.
A Note about Antihistamines: Antihistamines often cause drowsiness and are often found in OTC products designed to relieve cold and allergy symptoms. Examples of antihistamines include diphenhydramine hydrochloride chlorpheniramine, and clemastine fumarate. CAUTION: Side effects include dizziness, nervousness, sleeplessness, and heart palpitations. Do NOT take with caffeine, other stimulants, or alcohol.
Sodium Chloride (Found in some nasal sprays, e.g., Nasal Moist)
- Used for dry nasal membranes caused by chronic sinusitis, dry air, allergies, and asthma.
Different medications are used to relieve productive (mucus producing) and nonproductive (dry) coughs. Make sure you are taking the correct medication or else you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
For productive coughs
Guaifenesin is the active ingredient in medications for productive coughs. (Found in Robitussin)
- A cough expectorant to help loosen phlegm and thin bronchial secretions associated with a cough that is producing mucus. It is best not to suppress a productive cough as it helps the body clear its airways. CAUTION: Side effects are rare if taken as directed. Do not take if you have a chronic cough, asthma, emphysema, or excessive phlegm.
For nonproductive coughs
Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in medications for nonproductive coughs. Dextromethorphan with guaifenesin (Found in Robitussin DM, Benylin DM)
- A cough suppressant; use for a dry cough that is probably caused by minor throat and bronchial irritation.
A Note About Cough Suppressants: Cough suppressants generally contain dextromethorphan and guaifenesin. This does not mean, however, that you should take a suppressant for a mucus producing cough all day. This will inhibit your body from coughing and clearing out mucus. CAUTION: Side effects are rare if taken as directed. Do not take if you have a chronic cough, asthma, emphysema, or excessive phlegm.
Combination cold medications
If you choose to take a cold medication that treats multiple symptoms, it is helpful to know its ingredients. There are two main things to look out for with combination over-the-counter medications.
1. You may be treating symptoms you do not have when you take a combination medication. For example, Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough & Cold Liquid contains a decongestant and a cough suppressant. If you have a cough, but not a stuffy or runny nose, you would not need to take this product.
2. You may not be getting enough of a particular active ingredient when you take a combination product (see examples above). -OR- You may overdose on an ingredient if you take a combination medication in conjunction with another drug.
Contact the main health center for an appointment.