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Good Health and Bad Medicine:
 Colds - Part 1

 Colds - Part 2

 Colds - Part 3


 Mouth Washes And Bad Breath

 Nasal Disorders

 Sinuses And Sinusitis



 Asthma And Hay Fever

 Read More Articles About: Good Health and Bad Medicine


( Originally Published 1940 )

MORE than 35 different conditions can cause coughing. Among them are enlarged and inflamed tonsils and adenoids, sore throat, sinusitis, middle-ear infections, common colds, foreign objects in the lungs, measles, laryngitis, influenza, bronchitis, pleurisy, infection or congestion of the lungs, heart trouble, lobar pneumonia, broncho-pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, abscess of the lungs, bronchiectasis, lung tumor, enlarged lymph glands, tumors and inflammation of the aesophagus, syphilis, asthma. and nervousness. Obviously, then, failure to receive proper medical treatment and reliance upon cough remedies may have serious consequences.

The heavy smoker may cough every morning on arising and for short periods through the day. It should never be taken for granted, however, that a chronic cough is due to smoking until more serious disorders are ruled out by a physician.

Cough Remedies

Because coughing is a symptom of many different ailments, self-treatment of coughs cannot be recommended. The dishonesty and hazard inherent in practically all cough-medicine advertising should also be recognized. Rem is advertised "for coughs resulting from colds." Unfortunately, however, there is no way to tell whether the cough is a result of a cold. Many people who believe they suffer from frequent colds actually suffer from attacks of sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, tonsillitis or chronic inflammation of the nasal passages, and not from the true common cold. Moreover—and this is a more serious reason for avoiding cough "remedies"—diseases of the lungs may masquerade as attacks of congestion of the nose and throat, with accompanying or ensuing cough.

Pertussin is a syrupy concoction containing an extract of thyme, which is supposed to loosen and promote secretions of the respiratory tract. Aside from the fact that the precise mode of action of thyme is not yet known, the same danger attends the use Pertussin as of other cough remedies. It is impossible for any determine whether his cough is due to "irritations of the throat and bronchial tubes," to "smoker's cough," or to a serious chest ailment. Similar coughs may be present in innocent or in serious ailments.

Vitamin A in cough mixtures hasn't the slightest value in the treatment of coughs,. An adequate amount of vitamin-k is obtained from a diet containing butter, cream, milk and yellow and green vegetables. An excess of vitamin A, whether in the form of cough syrup, cough drops, capsules, perles, or concentrates, will not prevent or cure colds, respiratory tract infections or coughs.

The object of most widely sold cough remedies is to sup-press coughing. This, despite the fact that coughing usually serves the very useful purpose of expelling secretions from the respiratory tract. In certain instances, it is true, a cough may be so distressing as to require suppression. But a physician, not a cough-mixture advertisement, can best judge when this is the case.

Home Treatment

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people cannot get competent medical attention every time they begin coughing. Some means of relief are available, and may be tried for a brief period in the hope that the cough will clear up quickly without the aid of a physician.

Cough drops are not without value for the short, dry cough, such as sometimes accompanies a cold or that appears to arise from a slight irritation of the throat. Their virtue, however, is not in any medication the drops may contain, but simply in the fact that the sugar of which they are made stimulates secretions and soothes the mucous membrane. For this purpose any candy drops such as lemon or cherry drops will do. "Alkaline factors" in cough drops are nonsense (see

For the dry cough in which secretions are brought up with difficulty, drinking large amounts of water or fruit juice is helpful. Hot drinks such as milk, lemonade or tea are especially gratifying. A glass every hour or so will do more for a sharp, irritating cough than almost any other home remedy.

Steam is also soothing. It may be inhaled for periods of about five to ten minutes every three or four hours. The simplest apparatus to use is a teakettle. The flame should not be kept alive under the kettle during the inhalation. One end of a towel may be thrown over the kettle and the other over the head, and the steam gently inhaled. If a kettle is not available, an ordinary pitcher may be used. The opening of the pitcher should be covered with a cone of paper and the steam allowed to escape through the apex of the cone into the mouth. After the inhalation of steam one should not go out into the cold air, since the temperature contrast will serve to irritate the mucous membrane. While the use of such medications as compound tincture of benzoin in the steam is sometimes advised, it is the water vapor and not the medication which is of chief value.

Don't take cough medicines unless advised to do so by ,a physician, and don't try to treat a cough at home for more than a brief period. If, a cough is accompanied by, fever, chills, pain in the chest or indigestion, summon a doctor at once. Early attention by a physician may prevent the development of serious complications. This is particularly true for coughs in infants and children. A cough accompanying or following a common cold will usually subside in one to three weeks and can be relieved by the suggestions given above. Coughs lasting more than two to three weeks or those that recur several times a year, whether or not they are preceded or accompanied by a cold, also demand medical attention.


Buckley's Mixture Rem

Creomulsion Smith Brothers Cough Syrup

Pertussin Syrup of Cocillana Compound

Piso's Syrup of White Pine

Zymole Cough Syrup


An attack of croup in a child can be very frightening. Its causes are numerous and frequently serious. For this reason a physician should be summoned immediately. Syrup of ipecac is an old household remedy which will serve as an emergency measure. In children under three years, one tea-spoonful may be given every 20 minutes for two or three doses, until vomiting occurs. Sometimes a warm bath will stop an attack. Steam inhalations are also helpful. A towel wrung out of hot water may be placed on the baby's chest.

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