Coughing? First, throw out those cough drops and most syrups because there's little medical evidence to show that they work, according to new guidelines from the American College of Chest Physicians.
For adults with an acute cough or postnasal drip, the best option is probably an older variety antihistamine with a decongestant, such as Dimetapp Cold and Allergy Elixir, Robitussin Allergy and Cough Liquid, or Vicks NyQuil.
In addition, the ACCP guidelines recommend that adults up to 65 years old receive a new adult vaccine for whooping cough (pertussis), a highly contagious bacterial infection. The disease, which can cause a cough so powerful it can snap ribs, has increased lately due to more parents not immunizing their kids against the infection. Antibiotics are only effective in the early stages of infection.
For children younger than 14, the ACCP also strongly urges that over-the-counter cough and cold medications not be used. The risk of dangerous side effects can outweigh any benefits.
"Cough is very common in children. However, cough and cold medicines are not useful in children and can actually be harmful," said Dr. Richard Irwin, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in a press release. "In most cases, a cough that is unrelated to chronic lung conditions, environmental influences, or other specific factors will resolve on its own."
When is a cough serious enough for medical attention?
"Excessive coughing or coughing that produces blood, or thick, discolored mucus is abnormal," Irwin said.