Can you take Benzonatate for the cough?

benzonatate for cough
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


Benzonatate, a non-opioid and non-narcotic cough suppressant, distinguishes itself by providing quick relief without inducing drowsiness. Widely prescribed brands like Tessalon®, Perles®, and Zonatuss® are mostly prescribed for treating irritating coughs linked to flu, colds, or infections. Dr. Richard Honekar recommends personalized prescriptions and strict adherence to dosages for effective treatment, especially given its incompatibility with alcohol and certain medications and the importance of avoiding chewing the tablet or capsule.

This medication, effective within 15-20 minutes and lasting 4-8 hours, is tailored for various cough types but isn’t suitable for conditions like asthma or chronic bronchitis. Careful consideration of drug interactions, such as avoiding CNS depressants and narcotics, is crucial. Overall, benzonatate’s rapid action and unique properties position it as a reliable option, but consultation with healthcare providers is essential for optimal use and addressing persistent coughing.

What is Benzonatate?

Benzonatate belongs to an antitussive (cough suppressant) class of medications. It’s only non-opioid, non-narcotic, which doesn’t make one sleepy or drowsy. It’s different from other cough medications due to its non-addiction properties on patients. 

It’s one of the most effective cough suppressant medications for treating irritating coughs due to flu, cold, or infection. 

Some common Benzonatate brands are Tessalon®, Perles®, and Zonatuss®, which are widely prescribed and used for cough relief. 

How does Benzonatate help with cough?

Benzonatate is an effective cough suppressant that works on the respiratory tract, numbing the receptors in the airways and eventually, affecting the cough reflex giving an instant relief of the irritating cough due to cold or any other medical condition.  

It also works on the cough center in the brain that controls the cough reflex. This medication is often termed “local anesthetics” and is prescribed to numb and anesthetize the area, leading to treating the “Urge to cough.”

Benzonatate helps with relieving cough effectively by working on the airway passages. Make sure to get the personalized prescription and stay compliant with the prescribed dose and duration of medication for effective treatment,

says Dr Richard Honekar

What types of coughs are treated with Benzonatate?

Benzonatate is generally prescribed for the management of all types of cough, either from 

It works effectively on the respiratory passages and chemically interacts with the receptors and the cough reflex to give relief. It’s important to note that cough with smoking or long-term breathing problems like asthma or chronic bronchitis. Those medical conditions need steroid treatment to be effectively treated. In such scenarios, Prednisone is prescribed for the asthma-related cough as per the severity and nature of the medical condition. It also depends on the person’s age getting the medication. 

Get connected with your doctor for the best-suited and personalized prescription!

How should I use Benzonatate for cough?

Benzonatate is not an over-the-counter medication and should only be used per the healthcare provider’s prescription of dose, dosage, and strength with the prescribed frequency. Some of the generally prescribed doses for adults and adolescents are as follows : 

Dosage for Adults:

The typical adult dose is usually 100 to 200 mg orally three times daily as needed.

It’s important not to exceed the prescribed dosage, as Benzonatate can have side effects, especially if taken in excessive amounts.

Dosage for Children/adolescents

It’s important to note that the use of Benzonatate in children should be under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Pediatric dosages are typically lower than adult dosages ( >100mg )  based on the child’s age, weight, and overall health.

When taking benzonatate, make sure not to chew the tablet or capsule when taken orally, as it might cause anesthetic effects in your oral cavity that will further prevent you from eating until  the effect vanishes,

says Dr.Kate 

What drugs should not be taken with Benzonatate?

Benzonatate should be taken with caution, as some of the medications should not be taken with benzonatate to avoid adverse effects or decreased absorption. 

  1. Alcohol: Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages while taking benzonatate as it affects the absorption of benzonatate and impacts liver health. 
  1. Central Nervous System Depressants (CNS depressants) should also be avoided with benzonatate. Some of the CNS depressants are as follows : 
  1. Narcotics/Opioids:
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  1. Other Cough and Cold Medications:
  • Dextromethorphan (in cough syrups)
  • Guaifenesin (found in some cough and cold medications)
  • Phenylephrine (a decongestant)

It is beneficial to share your medication and medical condition history with your healthcare provider and pharmacist to avoid any drug-related interactions. It is important to follow the prescribed regimen in a specified dose for a prescribed period for maximum effectiveness. 

How long does Benzonatate take to work for cough?

Benzonatate takes only 15-20 minutes to show its effect, especially for coughs, after which you will feel relieved. Its life span in the body is about 4-8 hours till its effect stays in the body. After this, the following or second dose should be administered. 

Follow the prescribed regimen with the prescribed frequency for an intake of medication for maximum effectiveness for your medical condition. 

Get your personalized dosage regimen of Benzonatate by connecting with your healthcare provider!

When should I see a doctor?

Cough can be caused by several reasons, including cold, flu, infection, or any other related medical reason. Several cough suppressants and anti-tussive medications can be effective for treatment. Only your healthcare provider can determine and prescribe the right medication for your cough. 

FAQs about Benzonatate for cough

Can I take Benzonatate if I am pregnant or nursing?

Benzonatate is a category-C medication and is not safe for pregnant or nursing women. Category-C means that this medication showed negative effects on animals during studies, which makes it category-C and should only be used when the benefits outweigh the risks to developing fetuses. 

Can Benzonatate be used for chronic cough?

Benzonatate is not specifically used or prescribed for chronic coughs related to asthma, COPD, or other respiratory problems. It is prescribed for the cough directly linked with the common cold, flu, etc. It’s beneficial to consult your healthcare provider for the affected and most suited medication per your medical condition. 

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Bishop-Freeman, Sandra C., et al. “Benzonatate toxicity: nothing to cough at.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology 41.5 (2017): 461-463.
  • Dicpinigaitis, Peter V., et al. “Inhibition of cough-reflex sensitivity by benzonatate and guaifenesin in acute viral cough.” Respiratory medicine 103.6 (2009): 902-906.
  • Costantino, Ryan C., et al. “Benzonatate Safety and Effectiveness: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy (2023): 10600280221135750.
  • Evans, M. Steven, et al. “Benzonatate inhibition of voltage-gated sodium currents.” Neuropharmacology 101 (2016): 179-187.

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