Cochrane Summaries

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Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings

Smith SM, Schroeder K, Fahey T
Published Online: 
15 August 2012

Acute cough is a common and troublesome symptom in people who suffer from acute upper respiratory tract infection. Many people self prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) cough preparations and health practitioners often recommend their use for the initial treatment of cough. Twenty-six trials involving 4037 people were included. The results of this review suggest that there is no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of OTC medications in acute cough. A few studies reported adverse effects and described infrequent, mainly minor side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headache and drowsiness.The results of this review have to be interpreted with caution because the number of studies in each category of cough preparations was small. Many studies were of low quality and very different from each other, making evaluation of overall efficacy difficult.