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How do Cough Drops Work?

How do Cough Drops Work?

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What does it take to stop a cough?

The active ingredient in Halls is menthol, which acts as an anesthetic and pain reliever.

If you have a sore throat or persistent cough, a cough drop — or lozenge — may be just the ticket. Some are minty, some are herbal, and some are a little bit numbing, but how do they work? Here are five popular cough drops, along with explanations of what makes them tick.

The active ingredients in Cepacol are cetylpyridinium chloride, a bacteria-killing antiseptic; benzocaine, which is a numbing agent; and menthol, the minty compound that acts as a local anesthetic as well as a pain reliever.

The active ingredient in Halls is menthol, and some varieties also contain eucalyptus oil. Both act as local anesthetics and pain relievers.

The active ingredient in fruit-flavored Ludens is actually pectin from the fruit itself, which coats the throat to reduce swelling and irritation. Menthol is the active ingredient in original menthol flavor as well as the honey flavor; honey coats the throat as well.

Fisherman’s Friend
These “extra strong” lozenges contain licorice extract, aniseed and eucalyptus oils, menthol, tragacanth (a natural tree gum), and capsicum. All of these ingredients are geared toward coating the throat and relieving pain; the capsicum creates a small amount of pain one place (the mouth) in order to divert it from another (the throat).

The active ingredient in Sucrets is a local anesthetic called dyclonine, which slightly numbs the affected area.

Here are five popular cough drops, along with explanations of what makes them tick. The active ingredients in Cepacol are cetylpyridinium chloride, a bacteria- killing antiseptic benzocaine, which is a numbing agent and menthol, the minty compound that acts as a local anesthetic as well as a pain reliever.

Some cough drops contain as much sugar as candy. This level of sugar may not be safe for people with blood sugar problems and diabetes. Other lozenges contain zinc, which is thought to help boost the immune system. But, taking too much zinc can cause side effects.

How to Make Homemade Cough Drops

You’ll also want to make sure that your honey is raw and unfiltered. Honey has long been used for its healing properties, but when honey is processed with heat, it loses those properties making it nothing more than a sweetener. When you use raw honey that is unprocessed and unfiltered, you’re essentially getting it right out of the hive so it still has all of the healing properties that your body needs to heal. This is my favorite brand of raw honey, but you can use any brand that you prefer as long as it is raw and unfiltered.

Related: 30 Things I Simply Stopped Buying

If you’re looking to save money on the ingredients for your homemade cough drops, I highly recommend Thrive Market. It is where I shop to save on organic and all natural products. Plus, when you shop Thrive Market through this link, you’ll save 20% on your first 3 orders. It makes going organic and making homemade products, so much cheaper! I know that these use peppermint tea, but I’ve also been known to add a drop or two of peppermint essential oil to them as well since I am not fond of the taste of ginger. Adding the essential oil still lets me get the healing benefits of the ginger but covers the taste so I can stomach the homemade cough drops.

You Will Need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lemon ginger tea bag
  • 1 peppermint tea bag
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ginger
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

In a heavy bottom dutch oven, heat the water until it is hot, but not boiling and steep the tea bags for ten minutes. After 10 minutes, you should have a fairly strong tea brewed.

Separate 1/2 cup of tea into a medium saucepan and either drink the rest or set it aside for another batch of homemade cough drops. Add the honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and ginger to the saucepan and mix it until the spices and honey are dissolved.

Clip on a candy thermometer and bring the saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Once it’s boiling, be careful that it doesn’t boil over. If that happens, turn the heat back a bit to knock it down a bit. You’re aiming for 300° F, however, do not wait until it reaches 300° to remove it from the heat. It will scorch if you do. Once the temperature on the thermometer reaches 250° F, begin slowly turning the heat back and sliding the pot off of the burner a little bit at a time. This will keep it from scorching and yes, the temperature will continue to rise even if it is partially off the heat and even if the burner is turned down a bit.

Related: Home remedies for the Flu

Once the temperature reaches 300° F, make sure it is completely removed from the heat and allow the mixture to sit and cool for a few minutes just long enough for the mixture to start to thicken. Once it is thick, spoon the homemade cough drops onto wax paper. I used 1/3 tsp for each drop, but if you feel that makes your homemade cough drops too large, feel free to use a smaller measure.

Also, make sure you’re using wax paper and not parchment. I use this brand since it is unbleached and recycled. If you’re a Prime member, it ships totally free. Parchment paper will stick to the cough drops as they harden though so make sure that you’re using actual wax paper.

Allow the homemade cough drops to harden completely. Once they’re hardened, you can dip them in powdered sugar as a coating and to sweeten the mixture a bit if you would like. This step is not necessary though so feel free to skip it if you would like.

Cough Syrup, Cough Drops, Menthol Rub: What’s Best?

A: A visit to the pharmacy reveals row after row of lozenges, syrups and other products for cough associated with wintertime virus. Most are helpful and reasonably safe.

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When choosing cough drops or rubs, keep in mind that “medicated” products aren’t truly medicated. They usually contain menthol, an aromatic substance that opens the airways to help reduce cough and congestion.

Cough syrups can contain any combination of these over-the-counter medicines:

  • Dextromethorphan, a very weak opiate, dulls the cough reflex.
  • Pseudoephedrine and related chemicals are decongestants. They decrease mucus production but can raise blood pressure and cause irritation from over-drying.
  • Guaifenesin, an expectorant, can loosen secretions. It’s generally the safest option.

(Parents should be aware that cough syrups and menthol rubs are not recommended for children. Cough lozenges and honey are fine after age 1.)

A couple of prescription medications can suppress cough: benzonatate (Tessalon Perles®) and promethazine cough syrup. Both are effective and non-narcotic.

But by far the simplest, safest treatment for cough and congestion is good hydration: drinking lots of fluids or rinsing the nasal passages with a saline solution.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Calm a 'Dry' Cough

You may get one with a cold or the flu, or if you breathe in something irritating like dust or smoke. Medicine that says "suppressant" helps stop your urge to cough. Plus, it can help you sleep better. Cough drops -- or even hard candy -- can stop that tickle in the back of your throat. Don’t give the drops to children younger than 4.

Cough drops?

I'm sorry, Katchie Last fall, when my AH stopped drinking, he was constantly eating breath mints. like excessively eating breath mints. I suspected that he was trying to mask the scent of alcohol. He swears he was not. I don't know, maybe he wasn't? But, that's the thing. Even if they really are just eating cough drops or breath mints, the trust is gone. How crazy is it that we can't even trust that they're just using cough drops and breath mints because they need them?!

I think continuing with your plans is wise. Making a plan does not mean you have to follow through on it. It just means you have options

I'm sorry Katchie, I agree it looks suspicious. RAH only ever used minty stuff when he was covering alcohol, but when he quit drinking he started eating a lot more sweets, candies, etc. all around & I've heard of others who prefer stuff like cough drops. (My aunt was all about her mint flavored life savers)

But at 3am, it would be hard to lean toward that theory. (((HUGS)))

Menthol cough drops (no alcohol, no flavored ones) were okay to have at rehab and the guys there were going through a lot of them. It was strange to have my husband calling me several times during family week to ask if I would buy some for him. The rehab office was out of them for a few days and the guys would share the ones their family members bought for them. Although some of it may have been the dry air there, mostly it was just a new habit that helped them get through.

I asked here and it seems a lot of different cravings/habits like this can be normal when quitting. Yes, my husband was popping them at 3am for a while. Not saying that was the case with your husband or not, just that I know what it's like to deal with the crazy stuff both ways -- when they're drinking and when they aren't. All we can do is take care of ourselves.

One step at a time for each of you. One of the common symptoms of the disease is thinking it's possible to recover without help from others. That goes for both the A and family members. It's good that you're both starting to reach out for help. Just keep working your own program.

Alternative Cough Treatments

Given that cough drops usually contain lots of sugar and might not be as effective as other medications and remedies, let’s look at alternatives for treating your kid’s cough.


One of the best ways to treat your little one’s cough is with a reliable, cough syrup such as Genexa’s Kids’ Cough & Chest Congestion. Given that Genexa’s cough syrup has two active ingredients, it acts as both a cough suppressant and expectorant.

This medication temporarily relieves coughing due to minor throat and bronchial irritation that sometimes occurs with the common cold and inhaled irritants. It also helps loosen phlegm and thin bronchial secretions to rid the bronchial passageways of bothersome mucus and make coughs more productive.

In this way, it will help your child cough less and make their mucus thinner and easier to cough up, reducing the amount of time they’ll experience airway irritation.

Lots of Fluids

It’s important to keep your kid full of fluids when they have a cough for a few reasons. When a cough is accompanied by other flu symptoms such as fever, your kid will likely become dehydrated, so making sure they’re staying full of fluids is key. Fluids, especially really hot ones and really cold ones, can also ease the pain of a sore throat.

To make those fluids do double duty for your kid, you can add honey to hot tea. Honey has natural antibacterial properties that helps it ease sore throats and soothe irritation caused by cold or flu symptoms. You can also add lemon to hot tea to give it a healthy boost. Lemon can help break up mucus and make it easier to cough up. It’s also full of Vitamin C, which will give your kid’s immune system a nice boost.


If your kid has a particularly dry cough, it’s likely that they’ll also complain of a dry, sore throat.

One of the best ways to ease the pain of a dry throat is with steam. Have your kid take a hot shower, or simply stand in the bathroom while a hot shower is running, so they can inhale the warm, moist steam.

Another way to ease the swollen tissue in their throat with steam is to simply boil water, drape a towel over their head, and have them inhale the steam from the water for a few minutes. This will hopefully make it easier to breathe. It’s a good idea to do some form of steam treatment at night so their throat is soothed right before bed. Just make sure they can breathe okay, and always supervise this remedy from start to finish.

For Communicators

The first priority with a communication system is the individual. CoughDrop has vocabulary sets for many different levels, with built-in supports and vocabulary progression tools to start basic and grow over time.

CoughDrop is one of the most flexible apps available, with support for eye tracking and switches, and also new input methods like joysticks and gesture control, to give the user more flexibility.

What is the difference between cough drops and lozenges?

Throat Lozenges vs Cough Drops Throat lozenges are typically used to help reduce the discomfort of a sore throat and contain soothing ingredients like honey and menthol. Cough drops typically contain ingredients that act as a temporary cough suppressant, such as menthol or eucalyptus oil.

  • #1.
  • Luden's Cough Drops, Wild Cherry, 90 Drops.
  • HALLS Defense Assorted Citrus Vitamin C Drops, 180 Drops.
  • Ricola Natural Honey Herb 24 Drops.
  • Vicks NyQuil SEVERE Cough, Cold and Flu, Berry Flavor, 12 fl oz (2 Pack) - Relieves Nighttime Sore…

Accordingly, what are the best throat lozenges?

  • Chloraseptic Max Sore Throat Lozenges.
  • SoundHealth Honey Lemon Cough Drops.
  • Sucrets Sore Throat Lozenges.
  • Genexa Homeopathic Cold Crush for Children.
  • Theraflu ExpressMax Flu Cough & Sore Throat.
  • Chloraseptic Honey Lemon Warming Sore Throat Spray.
  • Theraflu Flu & Sore Throat Apple Cinnamon Hot Liquid Powder.

The action of sucking a lozenge itself does do some of the work in helping a sore throat, helping increase saliva production which reduces dryness, and coating the throat helping to ease the cough reflex. However, medicated lozenges have extra ingredients to help the symptoms of sore throats and coughs.

Throat lozenges for sore throat — do they work?

Popping a throat lozenge to get immediate relief from sore throat is a practice followed by many. But have you ever thought whether or not these tablets really work? Today, there are so many brands of lozenges available in the pharmaceutical market that it is natural for you to get confused about which ones are really effective and which ones are not. Here’s some useful information about throat lozenges you should know before you pop one. Also, here are some natural remedies for frequent cough and cold you can try. Also Read - How to Make Kadha to Fight Cough, Cold and Covid: Watch Yasmin Karachiwala’s Video

How do throat lozenges work? Throat lozenges are medicated tablets that you can easily buy over-the-counter. These tablets are to be dissolved in the mouth slowly to lubricate the throat linings and suppress irritation. Sucking a lozenge dissolves the ingredients present in them. These ingredients stimulate the salivary gland to produce saliva. Saliva mixed with the lozenge ingredients coat the throat lining to reduce dryness and itchiness. However, different ingredients in a lozenge may have a different effect on the throat. Also Read - Ganesh Chaturthi 2020: 4 reasons an eco-friendly Ganesha is good for you

Lozenges containing natural ingredients: A few brands of throat lozenges contain natural ingredients like menthol, eucalyptus oil, pudina, peppermint oil, honey, ginger and lemon. These lozenges can be taken without prescription. However, you must follow the instructions printed on the packet before consuming them. Usually, these lozenges containing natural ingredients are to be consumed every three hours.

Menthol: If you’re also suffering from cold and congestion, you can seek relief by using a menthol lozenge. It acts as a nasal and chest decongestant, offering instant relief. Also, it offers a cooling sensation by triggering cold-sensitive receptors in the throat. The most popular brand of lozenge containing menthol is Vicks. But, recently all other brands including Strepsils, Cofsils and Honitus are available in menthol flavour.

Eucalyptus oil: It is obtained from the leaves of Eucalyptus and is widely used as a natural remedy for treating cough and cold. It acts as a decongestant and also relieves cold symptoms. Dabour Honitus offers lozenges with camphor and mentha oil apart from Eucalyptus oil.

Honey, lemon and ginger: A coating of honey, lemon or ginger can soothe throat inflammation and help those suffering from persistent cough along with a sore throat. Dabour Honitus, Strepsils and Himalaya’s Koflet H-lozenges are available in all these flavours.

Medicated lozenge tablets can be categorised as pharmaceutical, antitussives and antibacterial.

Pharmaceutical lozenges for instant relief: They contain local anasthetics and anti-inflammatory painkillers. The anasthetics induce a feeling of numbness in the throat while NSAIDs reduce pain and swelling. These type of medicated lozenges will be effective if you’re seeking temporary and instant relief from a sore throat. Unlike lozenges containing natural ingredients, these lozenges can cause certain side-effects and should not be used:

  • If you’re suffering from asthma and allergies
  • If you’re allergic to painkillers. Allergic reaction includes skin rashes, swelling and difficulty in swallowing.
  • If you’re taking medication for heart disease
  • Pregnant and breast feeding women should consult a doctor before taking them.
  • Anasthetics and anti-inflammatory lozenges should not be taken with hot water as it may give rise to heat sensation and mild pain in the throat.

Antibacterial lozenges – for bacterial infection, available only with a doctor’s prescription. Antitussive lozenges: Antitussives or cough suppressants, like dextromethorphan, are commonly found in lozenges that are intended to provide relief from a dry cough. These agents suppress cough reflex by acting on nerve endings that stimulate the brain to trigger persistent cough action. So, if your sore throat is associated with dry cough, you can benefit from lozenges containing cough suppressants. Here are 9 causes of cough you should know Identify your symptoms and pop a lozenge with the right composition for instant relief. You can also try these tips to relieve a sore throat. Image source: Getty Images