03/06/2005: "the cure is worse"
Mid last week I was hit - for the second time this season - by a rather nasty bug of some sort that saw me book off work early one day and sleep 4 hours of the afternoon away. I got a bit better, had an interview (that's another story), but developed a persistent chest cough that was pretty annoying. Last night I had had enough of the damned cough, and decided to head to our local 24-hour supermarket and get an expectorant.
Worst. Decision. Ever!
For those of you not famililar with the various kinds of cold medicine you can get, the two you'd likely want for a cold would either be an expectorant - something that loosens the phlegm and allows you to finally cough the stuff out of you - or a cough suppressant, which simply interferes with the cough stimulus getting to the brain.
I knew that although a suppressant is tempting, I decided that an expectorant (active ingredient: guaifenesin) was the way to go. Elminate what it is my body's trying to get out of me, and I'll stop coughing. Sounds like a plan to me. However, the options that presented themselves to me in the after-hours section of the pharmacy didn't include a simple expectorant. What I did find was a suppressant-expectorant - not a combination I would have thought would ever be put together, but it was the one way I had available to me to get the expectorant I was after.
I got it home, took a swig, and hoped for relief. My chest did feel a bit better, so I was looking forward to having fewer coughing sessions, but having more productive ones when I did. Instead, I ended up feeling kinda crappy, and went to bed early. I didn't think anything of it.
Today I didn't bother with taking a dose in the morning as I was off to the airport later in the morning to pick up a visiting relative. The cough suppressant (active ingredient: dextromethorphan hydrobromide) was mentioned in an article in my wife's parenting magazines, which listed some of the side effects as "restlessness, drowsiness, upset stomach". I figured that last night I simply had the "drowsiness" part of the equation, and thereby shouldn't have any if I was going to be driving for two hours. Other than the occassional coughing fit, I was fine.
Once I got home, I decided to nuke the cough and have another dose. Well, less than an hour later I started feeling TRULY crapy, and getting worse. Even as I write this, over 3 hours after my dose, I still feel dizzy, and have flirted with the idea of tossing my cookies and sleeping through dinner. Truly, this is worse than putting up with a cough.
I now understand that it's the dextromethorphan that is doing this to me. As a public service announcement, let me tell you right here and now: NEVER use any over-the-counter cough remedy that contains dextromethorphan. The side-effects are much, much worse than having a cough. (And if it isn't, you ought to be seeing a doctor about that cough anyways. I'm seeing my doctor tomorrow.) I've already poured the entire contents of last night's purchase down the drain, and I'll never purchase it ever again.
YMMV, but you've been warned.