If standing in front of an aisle filled with cold and cough medicine leaves you feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. It’s difficult to choose from the large variety of medications that are out there on the market, especially if you are standing there sick as a dog. Having a better understanding of the two most common forms of medication will help you make that hard choice. So what is an expectorant and a decongestant?
Expectorants are in a class of drugs called Mucokinetics. They aid in the clearance of mucus and phlegm from your lungs, trachea, and bronchi. The most common expectorant used is called guaifenesin which is available in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. Though it is found in many cough syrups, it is not to be mistaken for cough medicine. Mucolytic agents dissolves thick mucus and relieves any respiratory difficulties.
Expectorants work by signaling the body to increase hydration during secretion thereby resulting in a clearer secretions and lubricating the irritated respiratory tract. The chemical structure of mucus molecules is broken down making it thinner and easily removed by coughing.
Decongestants are a pharmaceutical drug who’s active ingredient is pseudoephedrine. They are commonly used to relieve nasal congestion in the upper respiratory tract. They reduce mucus formation and inflammation in the nose, throat, and sinuses. They shrink the swollen membranes within the nose making it easier for you to breath. They not only come in pill form but also eye drops and nasal sprays for topical purposes.
Unlike it’s counterpart it does come with a risk of side effects such as anxiety, dizziness, nervousness, excitability, and sleeplessness. They should never be used by people with hypertension unless instructed to do so by their primary care physician. When taken via nose spray it should never be used more than five days unless instructed to do so by your doctor. Decongestant eye drops are used to relieve itchy eyes. Long-term use is not recommended with this medicine. The agents lose effectiveness after a few days.
Making the Right Choice
So how do you choose? You need to pinpoint your specific symptoms. Instead of buying a one size fits all medicine get one that is specific to the symptoms you are experiencing. If you have a productive cough with mucus that comes up and congestion in your chest then going with an expectorant is the smarter choice. If you have a stuffy nose then going with the decongestant will do. Pay attention to the category over brand name.
Both can also be naturally created for all the home remedy people out there. A mixture of garlic and honey creates an effective expectorant. While inhaling steam can be used to create a natural expectorant. You can find many more home remedies recipes online.