Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults with pneumonia: uncertain if they are effective

Added March 23, 2020

Citation: Chang CC, Cheng AC, Chang AB. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to reduce cough as an adjunct to antibiotics for acute pneumonia in children and adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014; (3): CD006088

What is this? Most people with COVID-19 will develop a persistent cough and some may develop pneumonia. Non-prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines have been used in the past to help with this in people without COVID-19. However, suppression of the cough mechanism might impede airway clearance and cause harm.

In this Cochrane systematic review, the authors searched for randomised trials testing OTC cough medications in children and adults with cough that was secondary to acute pneumonia for which they were receiving antibiotics. The authors did not restrict by type or language of publication and did their searches in January 2014. They identified 4 eligible studies (224 participants).

What works: Nothing noted.

What doesn’t work: Nothing noted.

What’s uncertain: There is insufficient evidence for or against the effectiveness of OTC medicines for acute cough in children or adults with acute pneumonia.


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