Raise your hand if you like the taste of cough syrup. Anyone?
I remember as child, taking cough syrup to relieve my cough was the worst part of being sick. I can still taste the thick molasses like medicine today. Why? Because even as an adult, most of us are still relying on liquid cough medication as the go to solution for a nasty cough.
But did you know there is a tiny liquid-filled gelatin capsule that can help stop coughing? Yes! No more liquid cough syrups because we’re adults. We watch Jeopardy, pay bills and do taxes! We don’t have to drink from a spoon or a tiny plastic cup. We can swallow a capsule.
That great capsule my friends is called, Tessalon Perles, or Benzonatate (generic name). It is a non-narcotic antitussive, or cough suppressant capsule and it works just as well as liquids. Plus it’s been around since 1958, so the generic is readily available and inexpensive. You can buy 30 capsules for $5.
So what’s the big difference between a narcotic liquid cough syrup and a non-narcotic capsule like Tessalon? Well the big one is that Tessalon does not contain an opioid like codeine and is always safely recommended by Doctors. Keep in mind, you still need a prescription before you can buy it.
But wait, there’s more.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Tessalon:
1. Do not chew or break open! You must swallow these liquid-filled capsules intact for cough suppression. Fun fact: Chewing or dissolving two 100-mg liquid-filled capsules in the mouth is used to numb the mouth and throat for anesthesia for conscious intubation. DO NOT use it this way. There can be life-threatening complications as a result of the local effects.
2. It starts working in just 15-20 minutes and can help suppress cough anywhere from 3-8 hours.
3. It works by anesthetizing, or numbing, the stretch receptors in the lungs and suppresses the transmission of the cough reflex in medulla (part of the brain-stem). When you breathe, it is the stretching of these sensors in the lungs that causes the cough.
4. Sorry Mamas, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, Tessalon is NOT recommended.
5. Tessalon Perles come in 100 mg and 200 mg oblong shaped capsules that are tiny and easy to swallow, but they’re a pain in the butt for us pharmacists and technicians to count. Imaging trying to roll 30 tiny footballs in a straight line, at the same time!
6. Tessalon is chemically related to Benzocaine and Tetracaine, both local anesthetics or “numbing agents.” This is how it numbs the stretch receptors in the lungs.
7. The great thing is you can take Tessalon with or without food! I find that a lot of my patients lose their appetite when they’re sick. Totally normal. Some medications that are taken while being sick, such as antibiotics, work best when taken on a full stomach. This can be hard for some people to keep up with. So it’s nice when you don’t have to worry about eating with Tessalon.
8. It can be taken up to 3 times a day. I know, seems like a lot but it’s usually taken on an “as needed” basis which means - if you’re not coughing as much, you don’t have to take it.
9. Tessalon doesn’t have that many side effects and doesn’t interact with most medications. Hooray! This is a pharmacists’ dream. Some people may feel tired, dizzy, or may even get a headache. The only serious reaction is if you have an allergic reaction to Tessalon in which case you might experience itching or a rash.
10. Tessalon can be used in different respiratory conditions to reduce coughing such as bronchitis, emphysema, influenza and pneumonia.
So long story short, the next time you have a bad cough and the doctor wants to write you one of those narcotic, codeine-containing cough syrups, you will now know that you have another option, Tessalon. And since Tessalon Perles are not a controlled substance, they can be easily sent via e-prescription to Honeybee by your prescriber!
As always, don’t forget to look at the upside of things… If you’ve had a bad cough for weeks, at least you’re getting a great ab workout!
With you health in mind,
Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi