Antitussive medications are mainly used for arresting frequent spells of coughing. Benzonatate is a commonly used antitussive agent. It is a prescription medication widely taken to suppress coughing reflexes. You need to know that activation of your vagus nerve is a key prerequisite to produce a cough. Medullar portion of your brain sends a signal back to the nerves which eventually leads to coughing. You also need to be aware that coughing is one of the ways by which your body erects a barrier against the presence of foreign particles or microbial matter in your respiratory tract. But, how to take benzonatate, as compared to other cough meds? It is important to know more about this.

Benzonatate is a key member – also, a non-narcotic member, of the family of cough suppressants or antitussive drugs. This drug’s key function is to numb the signal receptors situated on the nerve endings as well as on the membranes of your airways. This numbing sensation brings about needful relief from persistent spells of coughs. As mentioned earlier, this drug is important as it does not fall under the narcotic category; as you may be aware, most cough meds may contain traces of narcotics or similar substances in them.

Numbness of sensors or receptors on the air pathways is possible because of the inherent anesthetic capabilities of this drug. Looking at the coughing process critically, the excitement of your vagus nerve is an important trigger in this milieu. Your system has such vagal-nerve based sensors, fibers or nerve-endings; these may also be situated on the linings of your respiratory system. These are extremely sensitive fibers and are capable of getting activated by the presence of tiny, microbial bodies or particles.

Chemical composition and absorption of benzonatate

The chemical make-up of this medication mirrors a few anesthetic drugs / numbing agents such as tetracaine, procaine and several other drugs of the anesthetic genre. In fact, this chemical structure remains a solid cause for this drug’s numbing properties – which acts on your lungs and nasal airways. Due to its non-narcotic nature, the drug is very rarely misused or abused. However, there have been some cases of toxicity due to an excessive intake; it is one of the reasons why this drug needs to be always taken under the care and guidance of a qualified medical practitioner.

This drug is absorbed with ease inside the gastrointestinal system. Easy absorption makes its active ingredients to get into your blood stream without much effort. Once the ingredients enter the circulation system, it may take less than 30 minutes (or, max 1 hour) for the drug to start its actions. Relief obtained from coughing spells can last for a few hours. One big risk that you need to stay aware of – is the risk of an overdose or excessive intake.

Age of users and dosages of benzonatate

As part of efforts made to have a quicker relief from coughing spells – some users may take additional doses of this drug. It is important to remember that this med needs to be taken under the supervision of a doctor or strictly as per the instructions of your physician or pharmacist. The typical dose of this drug is 100 mg, which is taken orally. This drug needs to be taken three times each day for better results to show up. However, for children who are less than 11 years of age, no single dose must exceed 100 mg; such measured doses are taken either twice or thrice every day. Your physician will assess the underlying clinical condition, your age, gender and other pre-existing ailments – if any, prior to deciding on your medication plan.

This drug is also classified under another genre called esters of benzoic acid. This label is accorded as it this drug is known to be a derivative of benzoic acid based meds. Owing to its anesthetic capabilities, you must never take this med for long periods of time. It is a widely accepted practice among doctors to prescribe this drug only for a very short duration – i.e., for a few number of days.

Risks of overdose

An excessive intake of this drug is likely to trigger a few toxic reactions which can affect the functioning of your cardiovascular system as well as your central nervous system (CNS). These adverse, and at times, acute side effects are likely to occur when you cut open the liquid-filled capsules. A direct contact of the active ingredients of this drug can cause numbness of oral parts as well as the respiratory system.

Due to the drug’s anesthetic effects or numbing properties, overdose of this drug may cause signs such as convulsions, epileptic fits or seizures. So, crushing the tablet inside your mouth or chewing the capsule can result in a complete collapse of your breathing cycles, and may also cause fatal results like a cardiac arrest or a heart attack. It is highly recommended to always take this drug under the care of a doctor.

Intake of benzonatate – A few guidelines

A few users – in their enthusiasm to treat acute episodes of coughing – have taken high dosages of this drug. There have been some stray instances wherein some people taking it in excess of 650 mg within a 24-hour timeline. Such practices are considered as extremely unsafe, and may also bring about a fatal outcome. An excessive intake is often taken under the assumption that such larger doses can bring about a quicker relief. Instead, taking benzonatate in dosages more than 600 mg per day can only aggravate the already existing medical condition. Not stopping with it, overdoses can also lead to severe allergies as well as related discomforts.

Some people who took an overdose have witnessed an acute spell of drowsiness and dizziness; these spells have been witnessed within a few minutes – i.e., soon after the intake of an excessive dosage. In all such instances, it is not recommended to pursue activities which may require a high level of focus or mental concentration. For example, you must keep away from performing activities such as driving, working on heavy machines, etc. It is also not a safe practice to engage in adventure sports like swimming, skiing as well as cycling. Some people erroneously think that this drug can reduce pains and can also enhance your mental wellbeing. You must always remember that this drug is not approved for such uses.

Other dosage related precautions linked to the intake of benzonatate

Upon forgetting to take a dose or missing a dosage, you are advised not to consume a double dose of this medication. Taking a dual dose may result in discomforts such as tremors, shaking, involuntary twitches of muscles as well as respiratory problems like gasping, wheezing and irregular breathing cycles. If you are encountering one or more of these severe discomforts or acute side effects, one must call 911as fast as possible. You can also contact the emergency helplines of the food and drug administration to seek needful clinical care in a healthcare setting.

On the other hand, if you are living in any of the provinces of Canada, you need to establish quicker contact with Health Canada; you may also reach out to a poison control center located nearer to where you live. In this light, always remember that a dose in excess of 200 mg (per dose) is always a dangerous quantity to take. Intake of such larger doses may most likely trigger acute side effects like being in a confused frame of mind, nausea as well as a few other abdominal problems, numbness, pain in the chest, etc.

The above mentioned discomforts do not represent a complete list of all negative effects or undesired side effects. It is hence possible to witness a few side effects that are not listed above. Once you observe a few unknown side effects, you need to immediately consult your treating physician or a pharmacist. Always remember that the maximum permissible or safe dosage level of benzonatate within a single day must never cross 600 mg. Such a maximum dose must always be taken in three or four dosages each day. When you are dividing the dosages, ensure that you are not doing this with capsules that are filled with a liquid. Liquid-filled capsules – when broken or subdivided, can come in direct touch with your oral parts. Users who took the liquid inside the capsules (by cutting them out) are likely to witness breathing problems, numbness of the oral tract as well as respiratory pathways. In remote instances, it can result in collapse of breathing.

In sum, benzonatate is a non-narcotic drug, which is classified under a genre called antitussive drugs or cough suppressants. The drug numbs the receptors on the membranes of your airways, and thus provides relief from persistent spells of coughing. Such numbing of receptors or sensors is possible due to its inherent anesthetic properties. You need to be aware that the drug’s chemical structure resembles a lot with anesthetic agents like procaine as well as tetracaine. Excitement of the vagus nerve is an important prerequisite to make you cough; once the nerve endings / receptors are numbed, the reflexive actions are stopped and as a result, you are unlikely to cough too very often. In order to understand more about the safety precautions as well as risks of side effects associated with intake of benzonatate, you are advised to talk to your treating physician. This is considered as a necessary precaution – especially, prior to starting your medication or treatment plan.

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