Benzonatate | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

benzonatate, Oral capsule

Generic Name:
Tessalon Perles,Zonatuss

benzonatate, Oral capsule

All Brands

  • Tessalon Perles
  • Zonatuss
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Highlights for benzonatate

Oral capsule
1

Benzonatate is used to relieve coughing. It starts working about 15–20 minutes after you swallow it. Its effects last for 3–8 hours.

2

This drug comes in the form of a capsule and a perle (smaller capsule) you take by mouth. This medication needs to be swallowed whole. You shouldn’t break, chew, cut, or crush this drug.

3

Benzonatate is available as a brand-name drug called Tessalon. It’s also available as a generic drug.

4

The more common side effects of this drug include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, constipation, nausea, upset stomach, breakouts, nasal congestion, and burning of your eyes.

5

In some cases, benzonatate cause can serious side effects. These can include allergic reactions, confusion, hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that isn’t there), and chest numbness.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Allergic reactions

This drug needs to be swallowed whole. People who chew or suck the capsule are at higher risk for allergic reactions. This may cause spasms of your bronchi (the main passageway into your throat and airways) and vocal cords. It may also cause negative effects on your heart and blood vessels.

Psychiatric problems

This drug may cause confusion and visual hallucinations (seeing something that isn’t there). This serious side effect has only been seen in people who were also taking other medications.

Overdose in children

Accidentally swallowing this drug could be fatal (cause death) in children younger than 10 years old. The symptoms of overdose can appear 15–20 minutes after swallowing the capsule, and death can happen in about one hour. If your child swallows this drug, call your doctor or seek medical help right away.

Drug features

Benzonatate is a prescription drug. It’s available as an oral capsule and oral perle (smaller capsule).

Benzonatate is available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version. Talk to your doctor to see if the generic version will work for you.

Benzonatate may be used as part of a combination therapy. This means you may need to take it with other medications.

Why it's used

Benzonatate is used to relieve coughing. It starts working about 15–20 minutes after you swallow it. Its effects last for 3–8 hours.

How it works

Benzonatate belongs to a class of drugs called antitussive agents. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way.

More Details

How it works

Benzonatate belongs to a class of drugs called antitussive agents. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

Benzonatate works by numbing the receptors in your airways that cause you to cough. This makes you cough less after taking the drug.

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benzonatate Side Effects

Oral capsule

More common side effects

The more common side effects of benzonatate include:

  • drowsiness

  • dizziness

  • headaches

  • constipation

  • nausea

  • upset stomach

  • breakouts

  • nasal congestion

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following: 

  • Allergic reactions. Symptoms include:

    • trouble breathing
    • swelling or tightness in your throat
    • heart and blood vessel problems, such as very low blood pressure. This may cause you to feel dizzy or faint.
  • Confusion

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that isn't there)

  • Chest numbness

  • Burning of your eyes

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Benzonatate may cause drowsiness.

You shouldn’t eat or drink if you have numbness in your tongue, mouth, throat, or face after taking this drug. Once the numbness goes away, you can eat and drink.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
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benzonatate May Interact with Other Medications

Oral capsule

An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well. To help prevent interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. 

To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

Pregnant women

Benzonatate is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should be used only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. 

Women who are breast-feeding

Benzonatate may pass into breast milk and may cause side effects in a child who is breast-fed.

Talk to your doctor if you breast-feed your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breast-feeding or stop taking this medication.

For children

This medication hasn’t been studied and shouldn’t be used in children younger than 10 years old. Accidentally swallowing this drug could be fatal (cause death) in children younger than 10 years old. 

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • you have numbness of your tongue, mouth, throat, or face that doesn’t go away or gets worse.
  • your child accidentally swallows this drug.

Allergies

Benzonatate can cause a severe allergic reaction. Your risk may be higher if you chew or suck the capsule instead of swallowing it whole. Symptoms can include: 

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling or tightness in your throat
  • heart and blood vessel problems, such as very low blood pressure. This may cause you to feel dizzy or faint.

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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How to Take benzonatate (Dosage)

Oral capsule

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

To relieve coughing

Generic: benzonatate

Form: Oral capsule
Strengths: 100 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg

Brand: Tessalon

Form: Oral perle
Strengths: 100 mg
Form: Oral capsule
Strengths: 200 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Take 100–200 mg three times per day as needed for your cough. The maximum dose is 600 mg per day.

Child dosage (ages 10–17 years)

Take 100–200 mg three times per day as needed for your cough. The maximum dose is 600 mg per day.

Child dosage (ages 0–9 years)

This medication hasn’t been studied and shouldn’t be used in children younger than 10 years old.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Benzonatate comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you don’t take it at all

Your coughing will continue.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Your risk may be higher if you chew or suck this drug instead of swallowing it whole. Symptoms can appear as soon as 15–20 minutes after taking too much. Symptoms of an overdose include:

  • choking
  • breathing problems
  • feeling restless
  • shakiness
  • seizures
  • brain swelling
  • stopping of your heart
  • coma (being unconscious for a long time)
  • death

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

How to tell if the drug is working

You shouldn’t cough as much. This drug starts working about 15–20 minutes after you swallow it. Its effects last for 3–8 hours.

Benzonatate is typically used for short-term treatment. 

Important considerations for taking benzonatate
take with or without food You can take benzonatate with or without food
dont crush You should swallow this drug whole. Don’t break, chew, cut, or crush this medication
storage Store this drug carefully See Details
medication is refillable A prescription for this medication is refillable See Details
Travel Travel See Details
Clinical monitoring Clinical monitoring See Details
not usually stocked Not every pharmacy stocks this drug. When filling your prescription, be sure to call ahead

Store this drug carefully

  • Store benzonatate at room temperature between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C). Keep it as close to 77°F (25°C) as you can. Keep it away from light.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

You and your doctor should monitor certain health issues. This can help make sure you stay safe while you take this drug. These issues include:

  • Cough. Call your doctor if your cough isn’t getting better.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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How Much Does benzonatate Cost?

Oral capsule

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Lowest price for benzonatate

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for benzonatate on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

Show Sources

  • Tessalon – benzonatate. (2011, January). Retrieved October 12, 2015, from http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/011210s053lbl.pdf
  • Benzonatate. (n.d.). Drugs@FDA website. Retrieved October 12, 2015, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda/index.cfm?fuseaction=Search.Overview&DrugName=BENZONATATE 

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on November 9, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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