A natural solution to winter coughs

The most constant sound this winter is not the snow blower or the north wind, but rather, the lowly cough.

Coughs are everywhere as the “tripledemic,” which includes COVID-19, influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) continues to affect Canadians across the country.

“This is one of the worst cold and flu seasons I can remember in decades,” says Fort Erie, Ont.- based pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos.

Adding to the challenge is that many workplaces have welcomed staff back in person. That means more recirculated air and more airborne pollutants, including cough and cold viruses. (Studies show people spend at least 90 per cent of their time indoors.)

“It’s been dreadful, and I think because we were so diligent over the last couple of years, masking and social distancing and sanitizing…Our immune system hasn’t been challenged as much so it’s one of the reasons we are in such a predicament,” says Torkos.

Increasingly, Canadians are seeking over-the-counter products to help treat coughs. In fact, Google searches for treating lingering coughs rose 180 per cent in Canada over the past year. And, more than ever, shoppers are seeking natural products, says Torkos. She also finds people are much savvier in general because they’re researching products on the internet, searching ingredient lists and asking more questions about what’s in their medications.

READ MORE: RSV not just a kids problem, doctors warn as infections surge in Canada

She recommends natural cough medicine Prospan by Helixia products for several reasons: they’ve been clinically studied and found to be effective in reducing cough, reducing sputum, improving breathing and improving sleep.

As well, since many people have returned to in-person work, they don’t want to be slowed down by medications that make them sleepy. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that many cough medications contain, but it can cause next-day drowsiness in adults, says Torkos. Prospan by Helixia products do not contain any antihistamines, so along with being non-drowsy, they relieve cough symptoms and can improve the respiratory function of adults with chronic bronchitis.

Prospan by Helixia is the number-one-pharmacist-recommended natural remedy in the cough category and has been for five consecutive years, says Stéphane Langevin, senior marketing director for the product, adding that interest continues to grow in the category. “Consumers are reacting to coughing.”

People do not want to be caught coughing, especially in public, says Langevin.

“People are afraid of coughing. You go to a mall or your office [with a cough] and people will turn and look at you.”

Torkos says for the many consumers seeking a natural solution to coughs, Prospan by Helixia is a good choice because it has been studied and proven to be effective.

“It is tolerated really well,” says Torkos. “It’s really safe.”

The main active ingredient is dried ivy leaf extract, which has been clinically proven to reduce bronchospasms and reduce cough secretions. The ivy leaf helps to liquefy the sticky mucus trapped in the airways of someone suffering from cough. It acts as an expectorant, allowing the mucus to be coughed up more easily. This means it’s effective in relieving both dry and wet coughs.

Additionally, these cough medicines are helpful for those who have diabetes (which affects approximately 11 per cent of Canadian adults) as they are sugar-free. Torkos suffers from a gluten allergy, and appreciates that the product is also gluten-free.

“That’s a big bonus for me because I’m celiac, my son is celiac, those are some of the things I really like about it.”

Prospan by Helixia is also free of decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine. That’s good news for people who live with hypertension and high blood pressure and have to be careful of products that contain decongestants. Side effects of pseudoephedrine, even for those who don’t have hypertension, can include racing heart and insomnia, says Torkos.

READ MORE: Cold, COVID or flu?

Torkos recommends other natural ways to treat coughs, including running a humidifier at night (Health Canada recommends keeping indoor humidity at 30 per cent in winter), sucking on lozenges, and drinking lots of water.

And, if you end up sharing your cough with children in your life, Torkos says  Prospan by Helixia works well for children, too (there’s a specific formulation for kids). She also notes that Prospan by Helixia is dye-free, unlike many other cough medicines that contain red dyes, which can cause hyperactivity in some youngsters.

And Prospan by Helixia helps  everyone sleep. If kids are up coughing, the parents are up too, says Torkos. The ivy extract is not just a “Band-Aid or temporary solution,” she says. It addresses the underlying issue of cough, which is “reducing the bronchospasms and reducing the secretions.”

“If you’re not coughing at night, you’re sleeping better.”

Torkos says she uses the product herself and her son uses the children’s version. “You can have a natural and effective remedy.”

Canadians looking for a natural solution to combat winter coughs without side effects that trigger drowsiness, diabetes, gluten allergy, insomnia can turn to Prospan by Helixia.

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