Do Cough Drops Really Work?

Cough drops are presented as a way to soothe a sore throat or calm a coughing fit. Also called throat lozenges, these staples in the cold and flu aisle of the supermarket come in many varieties and flavors. But do they actually do what they're supposed to do? Here's what you should know.

Lozenges can have several purposes depending on the ingredients. Every type of cough drop will offer some relief in the form of saliva production. "Lozenges work by increasing saliva production to help keep the throat moist," Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, told The Healthy. A dry throat can feel scratchy and trigger coughing, which can cause even more discomfort.

Many cough drops contain ingredients that create even more benefits than increased saliva. Some contain menthol, which is an ingredient that has a subtle cooling effect (via Cleveland Clinic). This can offer temporary relief from a sore throat. Some cough drops may also contain ingredients that can help boost your immune system like zinc, elderberry, or vitamin C. These won't provide much pain relief but may help you get over your bug more quickly.

Cough drops can be used in combination with other cold remedies

Throat lozenges are mainly designed to provide relief from a sore throat, coughing, and congestion. If you have a sore throat, you can gargle salt water pull mucus from your throat (via Healthline). Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines can reduce swelling and offer pain relief.

If you don't like the taste of cough drops or don't have any on hand, there are many ways you can get a similar effect by keeping your throat moist. Drinking tea with honey can be soothing, as well as drinking plenty of water, using a humidifier, and taking a steamy shower. Try to avoid running fans or heaters while you have a sore throat, as this can dry out the air and cause more irritation.

According to Healthline, it would be rare to experience serious side effects from consuming cough drops. However, taking a large number of lozenges that contain menthol may cause stomach pain, nausea, and headaches. Many cough drops contain sugar to make them more palatable which can lead to weight gain over time. People with diabetes should also avoid eating too many cough drops at a time. Read the label and stick to the recommended dose.