Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
You feel sick as you stroll the pharmacy aisle while waiting on your prescription from your doctor. Then you come across the Mucinex products. Thinking about the commercials you have seen on TV you wonder if this could help you feel better? Would it be better to take benzonatate and Mucinex?
Your thought is interrupted by another painful coughing session. All you know is the cough is killing you, maybe two medications would work better than one.
But wait….. can you take benzonatate and Mucinex together?
1. What are bezonatate and Mucinex?
Benzonatate is the generic form of a prescription only medication that is also sold under the brand name Tessalon Perles. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the 1950’s and has been widely used.
These oily capsules are a cough suppressant, with the benefit of being non-narcotic. Most other cough suppressants are some form of narcotic and have the potential for addiction and other side effects such as drowsiness.
Benzonatate works by numbing parts of the respiratory system. There are stretch receptors in the muscle fibers in the lung that respond to how much air has been taken in during breathing. Benzonatate numbs these pulmonary stretch receptors. This action helps to reduce the cough reflex and thus prevent coughing.
Dry cough, or one that is not brining up mucous is the primary reason your doctor would prescribe benzonatate.
2. Does benzonatate help with mucus?
Benzonatate does not help stop mucus production. Instead it suppresses the cough reflex. This is important when coughing becomes painful or is preventing you from getting sleep. Sleep is critical to the bodies recovery and repair especially during time of sickness.
Coughing that is producing mucus should not be stopped by taking benzonatate. This is the bodies normal way of clearing mucus from the respiratory tract. In fact, when large amounts of mucus are being produced it is probably a good idea to hold off on benzonatate until bedtime.
3. How long does it take for benzonatate to take effect?
When your coughing and you need it to stop the medication can’t work fast enough.
The good news is that benzonatate does kick in relatively quickly. Normally within 15-20 minutes of taking the dose you should start to have some relief.
Pharmacist tip: If you want faster relief take the medication with a full glass of water.
Getting water is good to hydrate you when sick and helps get the drug absorbed faster. The effects of benzonatate last between 4 to 8 hours. This normally works well if you take it just before bedtime, helping you stop coughing throughout the night.
Mucinex is the brand name for guaifenesin a product that has been on the market for many years. You can buy Mucinex over the counter (OTC) at the pharmacy or your doctor may also write a prescription for it. Guaifenesin helps to thin mucous that is produced when irritants enter the lung and cause an immune response.
The respiratory track is lined by mucus membranes that secrete mucus. The mucus is important because it traps small particles that you inhale while breathing. Once these particles are trapped in the mucus they are removed from the body by small hairlike structures known as cilia. Some examples of things mucus and cilia remove include:
When your immune system gets involved the amount of mucus produced increases. The respiratory track quickly becomes congested leading to symptoms such as chest congestion, stuffiness and drainage.
Mucinex along with drinking plenty of water helps to thin the mucus so that it can be more easily cleared from the body.
- Benzonatate works quickly to ease coughing, typically in 15 minutes.
- Can be used for cough due to several different causes such as colds, asthma or bronchitis.
- Is non drowsy, for when you need to be alert without coughing.
- Has few side effects and interactions with other drugs.
- Helps to loosen mucus so it can be expelled to clear congestion.
- Is available in many different dosage forms such as: tablets, liquid, syrup.
- Has an extended release version that only needs to be taken twice per day.
- Widely used and has few side effects.
- The perle like dosage form can be hard to swallow.
- Needs to be taken three times per day to provide consistent relief from coughing.
- Numbness in the mouth can occur if capsule is not swallowed whole.
- Can be dangerous if used in children under 10 years of age.
- Must be used along with adequate water intake to have benefit on mucous.
- Can cause dizziness, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting.
- Is often sold in combination products that have other ingredients you may not need or want.
- Several studies have looked at the efficacy of guaifenesin alone and shown it was only slightly better than placebo.
4. So, Can you take mucinex and benzonatate together?
Based on the pros and cons you might be wondering if you can take benzonatate and Mucinex together?
Well, here are a few nuggets of good news!
1. There are no drug interactions between benzonatate and Mucinex.
2. Mucinex can produce an increased flow of thinner mucus, which can transition a dry, unproductive cough into a cough that is removing mucus from the respiratory tract.
3. Benzonatate can prevent cough that is painful or keeping you from sleeping.
4. A small study found that the combination of benzonatate and Mucinex work better than either one alone at suppressing cough.
5. Watch out for bad advice!
Don’t believe everything you read online about benzonatate and Mucinex. Several websites will claim that these drugs should not be taken together.
The reasoning implies that mucinex is for loosening up mucus so it can be coughed up and expelled. However, if you take benzonatate then your cough will be suppressed and the mucus thinned by Mucinex will not be expelled.
However, as noted above studies have shown that taking benzonatate and Mucniex together actually helped reduce coughing. Remember, your respiratory tract has small hair like structures called cilia that move and help to remove mucus. Therefore thinner mucus can be removed without as much coughing.
At the end of the day make sure you discuss taking both medications with your doctor or pharmacist. You should know the answers to the following questions before taking both products.
1. What was your diagnosis or reason for the doctor prescribing benzonatate?
2. How long have you been coughing for?
3. Is the cough productive or not?
6. Avoid combination products
Unfortunately almost all over the counter drugs have more than one active ingredient. This is unfortunate because this often leads to patients taking medications they really don’t need. This can prove costly and dangerous. Persuasive marketing terms used on packages to sell a products end up in patients taking drugs that interact with other medications or diseases they have.
Many times the extra active ingredients pose no extra benefit to the patient in what they are trying to treat. They almost always cost more as well.
7. Read the label
Your doctor just wrote you a benzonatate prescription and told you to use Mucinex as well. As you browse the pharmacy isle you see several different types of Mucinex and then what looks to be some generics as well.
What should you choose?
The single ingredient product, you can tell which that is by looking at the label on the side of the package. You should only see one ingredient, in this case guaifenesin. Any other product, put back on the shelf!
Mucinex is a brand name product. The generic guaifenesin is just as effective and costs less! The easy way to find the generic at the pharmacy is look to the right or left of Mucinex for a store brand or other generic.
You can always ask your pharmacist for help finding the product also. Again with generics read the label and make sure your getting just guaifenesin and not a combination product.
Another way to find guaifenesin is to look online. Retailers such as Amazon sell extended release generic versions of Mucinex, which can be delivered to your home.
Ingredients you don’t want
These drugs are often used in combination cough and cold products. They help to reduce allergy like symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose. They also tend to make you sleepy, which is why they are placed in cough and cold products. Examples include:
Don’t buy products with antihistamines. They can have unwanted side effects, especially in people with other health conditions. They can also interact with several other medications.
Everyone would like for their nose to be clear and be able to breath easier, right? Well that is why decongestants make their way into many cough and cold products.
However, these drugs can keep you up due to their stimulating nature and that is not good when your trying to sleep. In addition they can raise blood pressure, which is a downside for people for diseases like high blood pressure, cardiac problems or diabetes. Examples of decongestants include:
Steer clear of these unless you talk it over with your doctor.
These medications help relieve cough, similar to benzonatate. However, they do this in a different way. Many contain narcotics which would require a prescription from your doctor. There are over the counter versions that are non narcotic though. Examples include:
|Narcotic antitussives||Non narcotic antitussives|
If your already taking benzonatate then taking another drug to stop coughing is normally not needed. This would also open you up to the side effects of these medications.
Many over the counter cough and cold products throw in every ingredient available to try and make you feel better. Many times that includes analgesics, which are used for everyday aches and pains. Some examples include:
The problem is that these medications are often included in other medications the people may already be on. Doubling up by having these in cough medications can set you up for problems. Make sure to only use a product with analgesic in it if your doctor approves.
Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!
Share your story
Have you tried using the Mucinex or benzonatate? Also, please share how they worked for you. Chime in below with your comments and thoughts.