Updated: 3 August, 2019
Benzonatate is a non-narcotic prescription drug for cough. It works by numbing the throat and lungs, slowing the cough reflex action. By reducing the reflex it suppresses the impulse to cough. This medication comes in capsule form of 100, 150 and 200mg. The oral capsule comes in big or much smaller (perle) forms. It is available as a generic drug and a brand, named Tessalon.
Generic form of the drug usually cost less than the brand form. However they might not always be available in all forms and strength as the brand types. The generic form benzonatate often comes in the strength of 100, 150 and 200 mg while the brand form, Tessalon is often presented in the strength of 200 mg capsule as reported in an article written by the Drug Information Group, University of Illinois, Chicago. There is a great similarity between this medication and ester-type local anesthetics such as painkillers. These drugs are used to numb the body or gum before carrying out medical and dental operations. It is best to store this medication in a tightly closed container at room temperature and away from light. Do not store it in moist places like the bathroom or under direct sunlight.
Benzonatate is of the antitussive group of medication used for the symptomatic relief of cough. Benzonatate controls cough by suppressing the reflexes in your airway. It is effective against cough caused by common cold. It is also used to treat breathing related health conditions influenced by cold such as pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma. Barr laboratories states that this drug acts peripherally by anesthetizing the stretch receptors located in the respiratory passages, lungs and pleura by dampening their activity and thereby reducing the cough reflex at its source.
The laboratory also confirmed that this drug has no inhibitory effect on the respiratory center in recommended dosage. Benzonatate can be administered to both adults and children above ten. Benzonatate is not recommended for children under 10. In 2010, FDA issued a new warning to keep the drug away from young children because of accidental overdose and death. This decision by the FDA was prompted by the increase in the death rate of children who took benzonatate. Children are often attracted to the shiny look of this capsule. The FDA advise parents to keep these capsules in child-proof containers. Parents should also ensure that the capsule is out of sight and reach of children. Inquire about any medication before letting your children take them.
According to an article by the medical department of Michigan University, young children often suffer fatalities because of the misuse of cold and cough medicines. Benzonatate must be used only when prescribed by the doctor as self-medication is dangerous. Endeavor to discuss its use and risks with your doctor before it. Benzonatate may be prescribed for other uses, always seek the instruction of your doctor or pharmacist before use. Short term treatment is often recommended for this drug as prolonged use may lead to unfavorable side effects.
The 100, 150 and 200 mg of benzonatate capsule is to be taken three times in a day or as otherwise prescribed by your doctor. Daily recommended dosage can be up to 600 mg divided into three parts. Do not exceed this number. Take the drug as prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist. Exceeding your prescribed dosage can be very dangerous. If your doctor prescribes a milligram too big for you to swallow at once (e.g 200 mg), you can take two smaller ones that add up to your prescription (two 100 mg). Discuss any uneasiness you feel about the drug dosage with your doctor or pharmacist. Always read the leaflet of your medication. Doctor’s prescription for this drug is refillable. You don’t have to get a new prescription for your refill. Your doctor will write the number of times you are allowed to refill to complete the required dosage for your treatment. Refrain from keeping drug in the glove compartment of your vehicle and don’t forget it in your car, especially when it is too cold or hot. Extreme temperatures are not good for this drug. The dosage, form and amount of benzonatate to be taken largely depend on these few factors;
- Medical problem being treated
- Extent of infection or disease
- Medical history
- Your reaction to the first dose
How to Take Benzonatate
Benzonatate is taken orally with or without food. Benzonatate is normally taken three times daily or as otherwise directed by your doctor. It is presented as a liquid-filled capsule. Do not suck, dissolve, break, cut or chew this drug in your mouth. It is advised to swallow the whole capsule once, with a glass of water. You don’t want to experience a numb feeling in your mouth. Letting it dissolve in your mouth will cause loss of feeling from your mouth down to your throat. This can be very dangerous as it can trigger an intense allergic reaction and might make you choke. If by mistake you dissolve the drug in your mouth and experience these symptoms, do not eat or drink any other thing until the numbness ceases. If numbness persists or intensifies seek medical help immediately. If taken properly the effect of benzonatate sets in within 15-20 minutes of swallowing. By numbing the receptors in your airways, the cough becomes less frequent after taking this medication. Once in the body system the effect will last 3-8 hours before it begins to wear off.
You may have to take this medication with other medication(s) as a combined therapy. If you are allergic to benzonatate or topical medicine like tetracaine and procaine as contained in some insect bite cream and sunburn creams, do not use this medication. Ask your doctor for a list of ingredients to know if you are allergic to any. Drink less caffeine liquid during your period of medication unless advised otherwise by your doctor. Let your doctor or pharmacist know about any medication or supplement you are taking, so as not to prescribe contradictory drugs for you. An article published by the National Institute of Health, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services states that if you are taking benzonatate while planning for surgery including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist about your medication.
Overdose of benzonatate is dangerous and can be fatal. In children, the risk of overdose is very high even at low doses. Get emergency medical help immediately you suspect drug overdose. As the medication effect kicks in within 15-20 minutes of ingestion, symptoms of overdose also sets in within this time limit. Death may occur if symptoms persist for few hours and left untreated. According to Bar Laboratories Inc., benzonatate is similar to topical analgesics.
They are generally well absorbed after ingestion. Symptoms of overdose include:
- Loss of memory
- Blurred vision
- Slowed speech
- Irregular breathing
- Neck stiffness
- Numbness in the face, tongue, throat or mouth
- Loss of consciousness
- Walking difficulty
- Heart attack
If you are far from emergency medical attention in any case of overdose, try to forcefully vomit all that you have taken in. Take in large quantity of activated charcoal slurry.
If you miss a dose of your medication wait till the next medication time. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not double your prescribed dose because you missed your previous dose. Always take your medication as prescribed by the doctor or pharmacist. Don’t take your drugs between recommended time. Take a single dose at a time, not double dose at once. If your cough is not getting any better after few doses, call your doctor and report it. If this medication does not work for you, there might be a need to change the medication or reassess your medical condition. Remember that cough can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
As effective as it is benzonatate side effects may be experienced. The following are some side or adverse effects of this medication.
- Skin itch
- Stomach upset
- Stuffy nose
In severe cases of adverse effects you might experience
- Breathing problem
- Chest pain
- Chest numbness
- Choking feeling
- Chilly feeling
- Burning sensation in the eye
Once you notice these symptoms, call the doctor. Do not ignore them thinking they will go away, contact your doctor immediately.
If you are allergic to this drug you will experience one or more of the following when taking it:
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
- Difficulty in breathing
Get medical help immediately you experience these symptoms. You might have to discontinue the medication. Talk to your doctor and follow his counsel. Ensure that you properly dispose of unused benzonatate away from pets, children and other people. Do not flush this medication down the toilet. The best way to dispose of it is through a medical take-back program.
Drugs Contradicting Benzonatate
While taking this medication If you are using other drugs that make you feel sleepy (muscle relaxants, drugs for seizures, depression or anxiety, drugs for cold and allergy, pain relieving drugs, sedatives and sleeping pills) tell your doctor before embarking on benzonatate medication. Your previous pills can increase the side effects of this medication, making them more pronounced and life threatening. You can’t afford to withhold information on any medication you are currently taking or ones you are allergic to. Let your doctor know about all the drugs you take, whether prescribed or not. Account of all the supplements, vitamins and herbal products you are on should also be made to your doctor. Do not think they don’t matter, they do. When your doctor knows all the drugs you are taking, he will be able to adjust your medication to give the best result, with very little or no side effects.
Usage during pregnancy: and nursing
According to Bar Laboratories Inc., animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with this medication. As of this moment, doctors and pharmacists are not fully convinced that this medication can cause any fetal damage when given to a pregnant woman. However from more research findings, there might be slight effect of this medication on the fetus. There is still no conclusive report on this issue. There is also no proof of any effect of the drug on reproduction capacity. It is however wise to administer this medication to pregnant women only if it is really necessary. Though many medications are excreted in breast milk, it is not known if this drug is excreted also but doctors suspect so.
You may need to either stop taking this drug while you continue breastfeeding or stop breast feeding if you must continue with the drug. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about this if you are nursing or pregnant. They will help you decide. If you have to continue breastfeeding while taking this drug, the medication should be administered with serious care. Do not self-medicate at any time especially if you are pregnant or nursing a child.
Warnings against it’s usage
- Extreme cases of hypersensitivity have been recorded among patients taking this medication. This reaction is believed to be related to anesthesia gotten from sucking or chewing the capsule instead of swallowing it whole with a glass of water. Severe adverse reactions resulting from this have necessitated intervention using vasopressor agents and supportive measures.
- Separate occurrences of strange behavior have been documented on patients taking this medication alone or in combination with other drugs. Such erratic behaviors include mental confusion and visual hallucination. This act left the patients affected in an unbalanced situation for a while.
After thorough research, this drug has been found to be chemically related to anesthetic agents of the para-amino-benzoic acid class. These groups of drugs have been linked with adverse CNS effect. This effect is suspected to be related to a previous sensitivity to related agents or joint use with concomitant drugs.
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