Cough Remedies for Children and Adolescents: Current and Future Perspectives

Sara Manti, Maria Angela Tosca, Amelia Licari, Ilaria Brambilla, Thomas Foiadelli, Giorgio Ciprandi, Gian Luigi Marseglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cough is a widespread symptom in children and adolescents. Despite advances in scientific knowledge about the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the cough reflex, the best therapeutic approaches for children and adolescents who cough remain unclear, and many needs are still unmet. Many remedies for cough are self-prescribed, reflecting strong demand, but significant evidence of their efficacy and safety is missing in pediatric populations. Moreover, as most coughs are part of self-limited illnesses, treatment could be considered unnecessary in some patients. Drug therapy to relieve cough and other symptoms is an essential part of treating a child with cough. However, unfortunately, the number of studies in each category of cough medications is minimal, and dosing and treatment duration varies significantly among studies. Some treatments have been shown to be no more effective than placebo. Lack of clear indications for dosing and treatment duration, the number of available drugs, the numerous active ingredients in products, and multiple caregivers administering medication to children have been considered contributors to an increased risk of inappropriate prescribing, accidental overdosing, and adverse events. This review presents the most recent evidence on the safety and efficacy of available cough remedies, focusing on the pediatric age group, and includes H1 receptor antagonists, mucolytics and expectorants, drugs acting peripherally on the cough reflex, drugs acting centrally on the cough reflex, drugs acting both peripherally and centrally on the cough reflex, and other compounds, including menthol, glycerol, honey, and medical devices composed of complex natural substances. Future perspectives on new therapeutic targets are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPediatric Drugs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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