There are cough syrups and there are cough syrups

I have been down with a bad throat infection and congested nose along with fever for the last few days. As usual, I tried some home remedies but did not get better. I then started an antibiotic and a cough syrup. Two more days. No luck.

One evening, my temperature touched 102 degrees Fahrenheit. I then decided it was time to see a doctor. I went over to Sunshine Hospital to meet our family physician, Dr. Kirit Parekh. Dr. Parekh was the one who diagnosed my kidney disease in 1997 and I have been a huge fan since.

Dr. Parekh examined my throat and lungs and asked me to cough. One sound of the cough and he said, "Azethromycin is not going to work for this!" He then went on to prescribe another more potent antibiotic. He also prescribed a cough syrup. Once I was done with the doctor, I rested on a chair in the waiting lounge and asked my mother to pick up the medicines from the pharmacy. She did. I opened the packet just to see what she bought. I realized that the cough syrup that the pharmacist gave was not right.

There are two types of cough syrups. Cough suppressants and expectorants. Suppressants are used in dry coughs and they suppress the urge to cough. Expectorants, on the other hand are used in coughs where you bring out phlegm and they attempt to loosen up the respiratory tract to make it easy for you to bring out all the phlegm.

What I was prescribed was an expectorant. What I was given was a suppressant. Under normal circumstances, I would not have checked. I would have taken the syrup and my cough would have actually got worse because the phlegm would be suppressed inside. Of course, this would be discounting the action of the more important drug under the circumstances - the antibiotic. But you get the drift right?

When I returned the syrup to the pharmacy, the lady at the counter said that there was no expectorant available under that name. I asked for another expectorant that I had used in the past and she gave me that and I started using it.

This is why it is so important for all of us to be proactive when it comes to our health. These days you can never be sure. I believe a degree in pharmacy is required to run a pharmacy. But who cares about what is required? Whenever you buy some medicines, make sure that the name is exactly what is there in the prescription. There are tons of medicines with similar names with an extra suffix. For example you have Norflox and Norflox - TZ. Both are antibiotics but can have different actions. You have Becosules and Becosules - Z. You have many medicines that have a "plus" added. It is easy for the pharmacist to pass off one for the other because he does not want to lose the sale just because he does not have the correct drug. It is entirely up to you to make sure you have been given what you have been prescribed.


Thanks for sharing your experience Kamal.

Good to know about "Cough suppressants and expectorants". Never went that deep to understand medicines :)

I do try to match doctor's prescription with pharmacist medicines... however, there are cases (many) where this bullshit doctor's handwriting is so crypted, it is likely to be understood by pharmacists only!

We should come up with an android/ iphone app which can get away from these issues... just scan doctor's prescription and then scan each medicine, you are done!
Ramesh PVK said…
Ohhh god, so i cant imagine how many times i have used the wrong one's.
Great post, Thanks for sharing this useful information.
Anonymous said…
when my Dad was in the hospital at Apollo JBH, he used to develop frequent low grade fevers - these were very periodic - about once every 4-5 days and the doctor said it was because of an infection. This was where I decided my first point of focus should be - to weed out infection and to this end, my research led me to the work of doctors Kaali and Lyman in the field of blood electrolysis -

then went on to learn that Bob Beck improvised this even further in his Bob Beck protocol and by this time, I was ready to try out a device that implemented this theory. My research further led me to Sota Instruments which made a device and there were good reviews about it too on the internet and even on youtube..(

once we started this on my dad, my mom tells me that my dad went for about 45 days or so without any complaints of a low grade fever..

so again, take an advice for what you think it is worth..

(time: 1:47 AM and counting :) )
This happens quite a lot. Pharmacists often mistakenly give a wrong variation that can lead to a serious problem. You were right to consult a doctor when the cough persists.
flu remedies said…
This is a very interesting and factual post about suppressants and expectorants. A suppressants stops cough while expectorant helps an individual bring out phlegm. There is also a so called mucolytics, which softens phlegms. Anyway, cough is a common symptom of flu.