Contrary to popular belief, colds and coughs are not caused by cold temperatures, but by viral infection with various strains of the influenza virus. However, cold temperatures can be a contributing factor, increasing transmission rates and spread of the virus, as some studies have shown that the virus tends to thrive in cold and dry conditions. Experts hypothesize that immunity levels may also drop during the winter months because of a decrease in vitamin D and melatonin levels, resulting from reduced sunlight exposure. For mild bouts of the flu resulting from infection, most of us rely on over the counter medications and cough syrups like Benadryl. But, how effective are these pharmaceutical products and is it safe to self medicate with them?
Effectiveness Of Benadryl For Cold & Cough
“Benadryl is extremely effective at relieving common cold and cough symptoms, as these symptoms result from an overreaction of the immune system, as in an allergy, and Benadryl contains diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine”
The primary ingredient or compound in Benadryl is diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that is used to provide relief from the allergic symptoms like hay fever. So, why take it for your winter cold and cough? The common cold that strikes so unforgivingly in winter has a distinctive feature that sets it apart from most other infections. The cold virus does not cause direct damage to body cells, but the ill effects we are experience are simply a result of our body’s immunity trying to fight off the virus. In other words, it’s an overreaction of the immune system, much as in the case of allergies. This is what makes Benadryl so effective at countering winter cold and coughs.
Diphenhydramine in Benadryl blocks histamines, which are normally released when you suffer an allergic reaction. It also helps to stop the sniffles by blocking acetylcholine, another substance produced by your body. Of course, there is also a downside to using Benadryl for cold and cough treatment.
Side Effects Of Benadryl For Cold & Cough
“Increased sleepiness and lethargy is the most commonly noted side effect of Benadryl use, but in some cases it can cause other side effects as well, such as dizziness, blurry vision, constipation, indigestion, and drying of the mouth and nasal passages”
Properties that make Benadryl so effective can also cause adverse reactions in some people. The most common side effect however, is the rather harmless increase in sleepiness, which is not surprising, as diphenhydramine is also used as a relaxant and to promote sleep. This can pose a risk though if you need to operate heavy machinery or drive. Side effects like dizziness and blurred vision are a lot more disturbing, but are not as common. Some patients may also experience constipation, indigestion, and drying of the mouth and nasal passages. If these side effects cause excessive discomfort or persist, make it a point to get in touch with your health care provider.
Keep in mind that most cold and cough medications should not be administered to children because of the risk of serious side effects that can be potentially life threatening. Administering common cold medications that are sold over the counter can trigger severe side effects like convulsions, elevated heart rate, and decrease in consciousness.
If you’d prefer to brave it out and endure the symptoms of cold and cough rather than take medications like Benadryl, you can try using some natural remedies for the flu that have been scientifically proven to provide relief. After all, as pointed out by the Food & Drug Administration, there is little evidence to support the efficacy of most OTC cold and cough medications.
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