Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Why Can't I Control My Cough?
The Journal of Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology devoted an entire journal to the topic of cough regulation in 2006 (volume 151, issue 3). Some of the research findings indicated that a cough can be "voluntarily induced and inhibited" which means you can control your cough.
Cough medicines work on the cerebral cortex and may inhibit the urge to cough. Another article in this issue of the Journal found that many cough syrups are only placebos and contain no ingredient that would really stop a cough at the brain stem level. The sweet taste of the cough syrup stimulates taste buds in the tongue that may influence cough "via inhibition of the cardiorespiratory area of the brain." (Eccles, 2006). That means that the sweetener in the cough medications may have more to do in helping you suppress your cough than any other medicinal ingredient in the cough preparation.
Source: Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, Volume 152, Issue 3, Pages 221-372 (28 July 2006) Cough and its Regulation Edited by John G. Widdicombe and Bradley J. Undem