A common expectorant in many cold and cough products is guaifenesin, which is designed to make coughs more productive by loosening mucus and other secretions. It is often combined with a cough suppressant, but using guaifenesin in this way has been questioned recently. In some cases, this medication is used "off-label" to treat fibromyalgia and to aid women in conceiving.
An Introduction to Uses for Guaifenesin
Guaifenesin is an expectorant medication. It is available by itself in various nonprescription medications or in combination with other active ingredients in various prescription and nonprescription medications. Guaifenesin is approved as a cough medication to help thin the mucus, making it easier to "cough up."
Guaifenesin is best used to help relieve chest congestion; it is not an ideal medication for relieving a dry, hacking cough, since it does not suppress coughing. If you are looking for a product to stop the coughing -- especially at night, when the cough keeps you awake -- other products like dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) might be a better choice.
How Does Guaifenesin Work?
Guaifenesin is part of a class of drugs called expectorants. It works by increasing the output of phlegm and bronchial secretions. It thins out the phlegm and secretions, allowing them to be more easily "coughed up." The medication generally does not suppress coughing. Instead, it works to make the coughing more productive.
Guaifenesin is often marketed in combination products that include dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant. However, the logic of such a combination has been questioned, since the two ingredients have somewhat contradictory effects. Guaifenesin works to thin secretions and make coughing easier and more productive, but dextromethorphan suppresses the cough.
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Bennett RM, Clark SR, De Garmo P, St. Amand P. Report on a randomized, prospective, 12-month study to compare the efficacy of guaifenesin versus placebo in the management of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia Information Foundation Web site. Available at: http://www.myalgia.com/guaif2.htm. Accessed January 13, 2010.
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