Fighting the Sickness, Cough Drops

Three weeks into my life at Penn State University and I have already contracted the sickness. I bet it’s because of the high density of people on campus and lack of sleep I’ve been getting. So far my only symptoms are loss of voice, a stuffy nose, and a mild cough. Early this morning I went out and bought cough drops. Most people steer away from the sugar-based cough drops, like Luden’s, because they believe the better it tastes, the less effective it is. I like the sugary cough drops. They taste good and I can eat them with ease.

(Picture from Walgreens' website)

As I was sitting at my computer popping cough drops like M&M’s, I wondered, how do cough drops work? Luden’s cough drops are also known as “pectin lozenges.” Johnathon Andrew, a journalist who received his medical degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, said that pectin could be found in many fruits and vegetables. Although Andrew made some very good points as to how pectin could benefit one’s health, he said nothing about how pectin could alleviate a sore throat and cough. Below is the representation of a pectin molecule.

provided by

provided by

So, I had to dive deeper into the Internet. According to The Daily Meal, pectin soothes the throat by coating it, thus reducing the inflammation. Luden’s also offers different flavors, which have different ingredients, thus working differently. Their honey flavor works exactly like their pectin-based flavor, because they are both sucrose-based.

They also offer a menthol cough drop. Apparently, menthol cough drops work the best. To sum it up, menthol cough drops work effectively because they numb the throat (Zocdoc par. 2). One study conducted by the Monell Chemical Senses Center showed that the menthol found in cough drops had the same relieving effect as a menthol cigarette. After reading this I was curious to find out if there could be harmful sides effects from taking in menthol.  Sure enough, the first searches on Google after typing “menthol cough drops” show concern about the side effects of taking menthol medicated cough drops regularly and while pregnant. The University of Maryland Medical Center lists of a bunch of potential side effects and warning for when using menthol lozenges. Although there is no certainty that any of the side effects would happen, I would just stay away from menthol lozenges. The Monell Center study shows that both sucrose and menthol based medications work, with only a 20% difference in cough outset. So both types work, with very little variation (Monell 2).

In conclusion, I have found that there are two types of cough drops, sucrose and menthol. Both types have been proven to work. Sucrose (pectin-based) cough drops coat the throat in order to relive the pain, where as menthol cough drops use anesthetic agents to relieve the throat of its pain. Cough drops do work, and although they might not actually heal the illness, they definitely relieve some of the symptoms.

Benefits of Pectin, by Johnathon Andrew

Zocdoc, Do Cough Drops Work?

5 thoughts on “Fighting the Sickness, Cough Drops

  1. Taryn S Linker

    I unfortunately know how you feel. Everyone on my floor, including myself currently has the Penn State plague. I can’t sleep without being awakened by the sound of the forceful coughs of my seven roommates. I truly believe that stress and lack of sleep are factors that contribute to this. Here are some tips on avoiding this gruesome cold for next time.

    I took several voice classes in high school and all of my teachers advised me to stay away from cough drops. I never understood this as they proved to be successful in suppressing my hack attacks in the middle of class. My teachers reassured me that cough drops coat the throat and are essentially drying out your vocal chords. Without even realizing it, singing after a few cough drops can put much strain on your voice.

  2. Casey Andrew Schaum

    Sorry to hear that you have contracted the famous Penn State sickness. I had it briefly about a week ago but somehow beat it. There is nothing worse than having a cough attack in class though. I have also found that cough drops help and purchase them when I get sick as well. I did not know how they worked and it was interesting to find out. Learning about cough drops was the last thing I thought I’d do tonight but these blogs are teaching me some cool things.

    1. Maximilian Arthur Kesner Post author

      I’ve learned a lot of cool things from reading these blogs tonight too. Out of curiosity what kind of cough drops did you buy? I finished a whole bag of the Luden’s sucrose/pectin-based cough drops and still have some throat irritation. I looked up the best types of cough drops and actually found out that Ricola cough drops seem to do the trick better than others. Source:
      Hope anyone else who contracted the Penn State Virus sees this and decides to buy the right cough drops. Anyways, thanks for commenting Casey. I hope you don’t get hit with the sickness again anytime soon.

  3. Lauren Messing

    Unfortunately, I have also contracted this nasty Penn State sickness. When I sit in lectures, all you can hear for the majority of the class is students coughing abruptly and blowing their noses vigorously. I woke up one morning with a sore throat, but decided not to buy cough drops because I felt that they were ineffective to alleviating the soreness. After reading your blog, I understand how the cough drop coats the throat, leaving it less irritated. I usually buy Halls cough drops, so I decided to research and see if they are scientifically effective. Based on this article, I learned that they do in fact work and come in different varieties, one of the being sugar free, so they are beneficial to your body and health. Take a look at my article I attached and thank you for the insight! I am going to go by some cough drops after I finish blogging!

    1. Maximilian Arthur Kesner Post author

      Hey Lauren, thanks for commenting. I honestly find the constant coughing and blowing of noses kind of amusing. I was sitting in ECON 102 the other day and there was not a single period of time where the room was quiet. Some people behind me picked up on it and for the entire class we laughed about it. At one point i think the majority of the people in the room notice and we all kind of laughed when one student blew his nose insanely loud. Mark McLeod, the ECON 102 professor, actually asked the class what was so funny. I guess he grew used to the constant clatter. If you actually have a sore throat go buy Ricola cough drops, I researched the best ones so I wouldn’t waste anymore money. Good luck, I hope you feel better soon. Ricola Fan Club:

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