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When To Take Dextromethorphan For Your Cough

My dad got a terrible cold this winter. His cough was so bad he couldn’t sleep for days and a cough suppressant could have made him feel better.

If you have a cold like my dad, you really want the best cough suppressant, and you want it now!

I’ve already discussed why I recommend pseudoephedrine, a reliable decongestant medicine. This week I’m going to discuss the use of cough suppressants, which are also known as antitussives.

Cough suppressants are an ingredient in many cold and flu remedies at your pharmacy.  These drugs should not be used in children since they are mostly unproven and can be dangerous, so the information below only applies to adults.

Common Questions About Cough

Why Do We Cough?

Cough is a normal reflex to protect our lungs and upper airways from irritants such as smoke and infections. As we cough, we try to get rid of the bad things that have been inhaled into our lungs. A respiratory tract infection like a cold or the flu is the most frequent cause of cough.

What Is A “Normal” Cough When I Have A Cold?

You can get a dry cough soon after getting a cold. This may usually worsen over 1-3 days, but will then begin to improve. You may have a lingering cough for up to two weeks. If your cough doesn’t start to improve as described above, it is a good idea to get checked out by a doctor since a cough can be a symptoms of a more severe problem like pneumonia.

When Should I Use A Cough Suppressant?

Cough suppressants can be tried if you have a cold with a dry cough. On the other hand, if you are coughing up a bunch of phlegm or mucous, then you don’t want to stop coughing because your cough is productive and is helping to clear the phlegm.  Typically I only recommend a cough suppressant for a dry cough when you are really struggling to cope such as having a lack of sleep.

What Is The Best Cough Suppressant?

In my experience, many people respond well to over-the-counter dextromethorphan, often abbreviated as DM. The effectiveness of dextromethorphan can be modest, so make sure you are using an adequate dose and follow the package instructions. If dextromethorphan doesn’t help your cough after a few days of treatment, it is best to see your doctor for a full assessment of your cough. 

To learn about how to best use dextromethorphan in adults, including details on dosing, side-effects, and drug interactions, check out my Ultimate Guide to Curing Your Cold. In this easy to read e-book, I simplify the essential information about how to best treat all your cold symptoms. Finally, after a few sleepless nights, my dad’s cough started to improve. Next time he gets such a bad cough, he’ll go chat with his pharmacist about dextromethorphan.

How to Register as a Patient in the Electronic Health Record Hong Kong

How to Register as a Patient in the Electronic Health Record Hong Kong

This week I’m navigating the steps to register as a patient (recipient of care) in the electronic health record (EHR) in Hong Kong. The system was fully launched on 13 March 2016 and it allows for health information sharing between both public and private health care providers.

I was curious to experience the registration process first-hand. What I am surprised about is that in a city where so many things are convenient, registering for the electronic health record definitely took some individual initiative and effort.

Because it is a multi-step process that involves paperwork, I thought I would share my personal experience so that you know what to expect.

Why You Should Register for the Electronic Health Record

The primary reason, is if the electronic health record is used correctly, it can result in better care. For example, if you have a medication allergy, your allergy should be recorded (and updated) in the same shared system. Ideally, wherever you go to receive care, your healthcare providers have the same record of your allergy. The same principle applies for all your medications and test results.

This means that healthcare providers can see your complete health history which could result in a more timely diagnosis and should reduce duplication of test results.

As a former hospital pharmacist, the electronic health record is absolutely essential when patients are very sick or incapacitated. It gives the doctors, pharmacists, and nurses valuable life-saving information when you or a family member are unable to provide important health information.

Bottom line is that everyone in Hong Kong should be registered in the electronic health record.

So now that you’ve decided it’s important for you and your family’s health to register in the electronic health record, let’s walk through the process step-by-step.

Choose Your Mode of Registration


You have three modes of registration

Online was my preferred way to register. For Hong Kongers who regularly visit health providers enrolled in the electronic health record it’s simplest to register in person. Alternatively you can complete your registration online or by mail. The advantage of registering in person, which I wasn’t initially aware of, is that you can “register” and “activate” your registration in a single in-person visit.

Note that you must be aged 16 or above to register online. Parents and select substitute decision makers can make online submissions on behalf of those in their care.

Once you click online submission, follow the links until a page with a lengthy description and instructions. Input the validation code at the bottom of this page.

What You Need to Register

You’ll need to have your Hong Kong ID card, your address, email, and phone number available for registration. For some reason the system said I had an invalid mobile number so I chose to receive notifications by email.

The default setting is for you to receive a notification every time your electronic health record is accessed. For most people who receive frequent healthcare, you can select the box “I refuse to receive notification whenever my eHR has been accessed”. Otherwise you’ll be getting text messages or emails everytime you go to the doctor, hospital, or dentist. If you value being made aware of any access to your health information then you should opt to receive notifications. There will of course be internal processes to prevent unauthorized access to your health information, but many people will want to know when their health information is accessed.

The online registration only took 5 minutes. Now you have to activate your registration in person.

You’ll be told to “activate” your registration in person

Activate Your Electronic Health Record Registration

You have two options for activation: activate with a registered healthcare provider (e.g., doctor, dentist) or visit a government registration centre (e.g., Hospital Authority, Department of Health).

This week I had to visit my dental clinic, and I asked if I could activate my registration. Unfortunately, the clinic has not joined the electronic health record system, so I went to register at the Queen Mary Hospital, since it’s close to my office. A full list of activation locations is available here.QMH-queen-mary-hospital-s-block-map

I arrived at the specialist clinic building (S Block) and waited in line for about 5 minutes. Then the clerk confirmed all my registration information. Finally, I received a confirmation letter which contains an access key that I would share with my health care providers. Once a health care provider has my access key, they can then view my health information contained in the electronic health record.

Overall the process was fairly painless and took a total of 15 minutes, excluding the time taken to make a special trip for activation. Now I’ll just need to remember to provide my personal access code to my health professionals in advance of my next clinic visit!

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