Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, January 13, 2006

And Grandma wins again!

A new study finds that over the counter cough remedies are no better than placebo.

Actually, as a matter of fact, they're worse. In this study, they also kept track of whether kids with colds who took cough syrups with dextromethorphan or diphenhydramine let their parents sleep better than kids who took a placebo. The verdict? The parents slept worse when they gave the kids the stuff with the active ingredients. Although the news article I linked to doesn't spell it out, a likely reason is that those active ingredients, although they don't suppress coughs, can cause insomnia. Give your kids Robitussin, and they're more likely to keep you up at night than if you don't. Oddly enough, these ingredients can also cause drowsiness. Not to mention occasional severe side effects such as hallucinations and cardiac arhythmias. Plus which, they cost a fair amount of money. What they don't do is suppress coughs.

On the other hand, the placebo wasn't exactly nothing, it was a sweet syrup. That obviously could make kids feel better, and it might even make them salivate, which could help relieve some of the symptoms, at least briefly. Grandma's solution was hot ginger tea with lemon and honey. That really works! And no side effects. And cheap.

Is there any chance in a million years that the FDA will stop allowing the drug companies to make false claims for this stuff? Just askin'.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that persons of youthfulness shoplift cough syrup and chug whole bottles of it in order to experience the side effects. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They cough anyway.

Addendum addendum: I also forgot to tell you how to make the tea, in case you weren't listening to grandma. Slice up some fresh ginger and boil the living crap out of it, a good 10 minutes. Then strain it and add the lemon juice and honey. If it's for a kid, you need to cool it off so it can't scald, obviously. You can make up a big batch ahead of time, then heat up a cup on the stove top or microwave as needed or requested.

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