Must know difference between cold, cough, allergy, suppressants, expectorants

By Madhurie Singh, January 06, 2012


Cold, Cough and Allergies are commonly used together. But medically they are both different in terms of cause, symptoms and treatment. So moms do not blindly take any cough syrup. Small children who cannot tell are the worst sufferers and as a mother, you must be aware of the symptoms and little knowledge about the pharmaceutical terms and world.

Since I have the experience of working as product manager in a pharmaceutical company it becomes easy for me to understand any bottle or strip of medicine I lay my hands on. Also morphine is very close to my heart as I did a year round research on how it could be introduced in India, its manufacturing, packaging, labeling and marketing. It was later shelved due to legal reasons about license to manufacture narcotics. But the abundance of knowledge I gained from the project is the winning fact for me.

Yet I am not a doctor and all the content written is compilation of information with loads of common sense applied.

Understanding the difference between cold and cough and allergy.


Most cold and cough have some reason to start it. Knowing the cause is most important for all mothers.






three-14 days

Days to months — as long as you are exposed to the allergen

Time of Year

Most often in the winter, but possible at any time

Any time of the year — although the appearance of some allergens are seasonal

Onset of symptoms

Symptoms take a few days to appear after infection with the virus.

Symptoms can begin immediately after exposure to the allergen
















Itchy, watery eyes



Sore throat



Runny or stuffy nose

Often; usually yellow mucus

Often; usually clear mucus

Sourced from

Cold: Can be caused by bacteria, allergy or virus.

If it is caused by allergy, which is most common reason, an anti allergy will be prescribed by the doctor.

If caused by viral, leave it to be cured by itself in a weeks time.

If caused by bacteria, antibiotics needed to cure.


Mucous is important liquid coating the parts of our body. It is good to have mucous and essential.


Phlegm is mucous + bacteria + dead cells which must be thrown out of the body.

Cough: Tussis

Can be due to allergy, infection by bacteria or virus.

You may have cough without cold. That is allergic cough.

Viral cough:

Barking like sound, as the throat swells from inside. It becomes difficult to breathe.

Always fever is also seen. Viral cough has no medicines and will cure within 1 week on its own. It is important to help the body when it is first 2 days of the viral cough by giving good diet of soups and vitamins.

Always viral infection leads to bacterial infection if body is weak and no immune booster given during viral.

Bacterial cough:

Must be treated by antibiotics.


Some important terms every mom must know about medicines especially OTC (over the counter that you can buy without prescription).


Most common ingredients in cold and cough bottles are these:

Ingredient Used as Description

Bromhexine hydrochloride

Expectorant .


Should be not combined with suppressant.

If possible menthol should be also not mixed.

Used to remove phlegm out of the lungs, trachea, throat and of course nose.

Must be given if there is nose stuffed with thick mucous. Green and dark green and very thick phlegm means infection by bacteria.

Clear, watery, colorless phlegm means viral or allergic cold.

All expectorant work to first thin the phlegm which may be in the lungs, trachea, throat or nose. Ammonium Chloride irritates the respiratory tract to throw out phlegm.

This phlegm must be thrown out by blowing nose or spitting from mouth as frequently as possible.

Taking steam through nose or mouth helps by melting the phlegm. You can add menthol, eucalyptus oil to help soothe the respiratory tract.

Nebulising is same as taking steam when very small babies do not know how to inhale hot steam.

Given day time to allow throwing out the phlegm. Should not be given before going to bed.



Terbutaline sulphate


Ammonium Chloride




When the throat or respiratory tract is irritated and painful due to coughing, menthol soothes the area. It can be used as balm on lips, throat and nose.

It provides temporary relief to throat and nose.

Helps best when taken as lozenges or suck on after a bout of coughing.

Sodium Citrate


Reduces acidic mucous, urine, blood levels.

Can be taken with expectorant.


Lowers acidic level to reduce burning sensations.

Chlorpheniramine maleate

Anti Allergy


Suppresses any allergy, itching, rashes, swelling, insect bite reactions.





Cetrizine Hydrochloride



Tells the brain to stop coughing.

The duration is short, hence can be used 2-3 times a day.

Hence give when you are troubled by coughing but no phlegm to spit out and no running nose.




Used when the coughing is unstoppable and painful.

Codeine is a painkiller and acts on the central nervous system.


May be given just before going to bed, to get a good uninterrupted, pain free sleep.

Must be avoided as much possible especially day time. Do not allow cycling, biking, skating, or even crossing roads alone if given codeine. It is a narcotic and affects central nervous system. It lowers nerve functions of the brain and spine. Too much can become addictive.

Used by many adults instead of alcohol.

All these suppressants are made from opium.







Source: Wikipedia, Webmed, kidshealth, ehow, Walgreens, IndianDrugsReview


I usually do gargling with salt water to treat cold, usually 3 times a day. But usually, it takes a weak to cure it completely. I also drink veg soup to treat the illness.

Mix honey with lemon juice to a glass of warm water and drink this 3 times per day for relief from a cough. If you have a particularly nasty cough, try this remedy. Take about 3 tablespoons of getting rid of a sore throat with natural honey.

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