Healthy Living

Benzonatate Uses and Side Effects

Benzonatate Uses and Side Effects

Generic Name: Benzonatate

Brand Names: Zonatuss, Tessalon, Tessalon Perles


Benzonatate is a prescription drug in the form of oral capsules. It is also available under the trade names Zonatuss, Tessalon, and Tessalon Perles. It is also available as a generic drug, which usually costs less but may be unavailable in every strength or form as compared to the branded versions. 

Benzonatate is a cough medicine that starts working within 20 minutes of taking it. The effects of this medication usually last for about a maximum of eight hours. Benzonatate may also be used in combination therapy, which means that you can take this drug with other medications. 

How It Works

Benzonatate belongs to a drug class called antitussives. A drug class is a group of medicines that similarly work for the treatment of similar conditions. It works by numbing the receptors in the throat and lungs that can cause coughing. Taking benzonatate makes you cough less. 

Before Taking Benzonatate

It is important to keep in mind certain factors before taking this medication:

  • Let the doctor know if you are allergic to benzonatate or any of its ingredients.
  • You should also inform your doctor if you are allergic to certain topical numbing medicines, such as procaine or tetracaine.   
  • Let the doctor know if you have other known allergies. 
  • Speak with your doctor if you are currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Benzonatate can be taken only if the medical benefits justify the potential risks to the unborn baby.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. This drug may pass into breast milk and may cause certain side effects in your child. 
  • This drug should be kept away from young children. A benzonatate overdose in children can be fatal. 


Benzonatate is used for the treatment of coughs due to common colds and other respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia. However, benzonatate is not suitable for children who are below 10 years old. You can discuss the benefits and risks of taking this medication with your doctor. 

How to Use Benzonatate 

Benzonatate is orally taken with or without food three times a day or according to your doctor's instructions. Since this medication has a numbing effect, it should be swallowed as a whole. It is quite important not to let this medication be dissolved in the mouth as well as sucked or chewed to avoid numbness in your mouth, which can lead choking or severe allergic reactions. 

Wait for the numbness to go away before eating or drinking. If the numbness worsens or persists, seek immediate medical help. Its dosage usually depends on your condition and response to the treatment. Do not take multiple doses of this medication to avoid having side effects. 

If you miss a dose, take the medicine as soon as you remember. However, when it is already time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and follow the normal dosing schedule. Make sure not to take double doses to prevent the chances of an overdose. 

Benzonatate should be stored at room temperature and away from light and moisture. It should be stored in a cool and dry place. Do not store it in the bathroom. All medications including benzonatate should be kept in a safe place and away from children’s reach.

Any unused or expired medications should be disposed of safely. Do not flush medicines down the toilet or pour them down the drain. You can check with the doctor or pharmacist on how to properly dispose of unused or expired medications. 


Benzonatate comes in two strengths: 100 mg and 200 mg. Both of these strengths are in capsule form. They have to be taken for a maximum period of three times a day based on the prescription provided by the doctor. 

Take benzonatate capsule as a whole with a full glass of water. For individuals who have a hard time swallowing large 200 mg capsules, they can take two 100 mg capsules instead. Children who are 10 years old and below should not take this medicine.

Side Effects

Some of the common side effects of this medication include:

  • Rashes 
  • Drowsiness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea
  • Mild skin itching
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Acid reflux

Seek medical help right away if you experience any of the following serious side effects:

  • Feelings of confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Allergic reactions such as constant itching, skin blisters, skin peeling, inflamed skin, chest tightness, difficulty swallowing, unable to talk or finding it difficult to speak, throat tightness, or unusual hoarseness
  • Tingling or numbness in the mouth, face, throat, and tongue, which may occur when benzonatate is broken, dissolved, chewed, or crushed before intake
  • Choking and certain allergic reactions
  • Decreased alertness
  • Stomach upset
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation 
  • Feeling dizzy 
  • Headaches that can get severe over time
  • Stuffy or congested nose

A wider range of side effects may be experienced by:

Drug Interactions

Do not start, stop, or change your medicine's dosage without consulting your doctor or pharmacist first. Before taking benzonatate, inform your doctor of all the medications (both prescription and nonprescription), herbal products, or dietary supplements you may be using. 

Inform your doctor if you are currently taking any of the following medications that can cause drowsiness:

  • Antihistamines (diphenhydramine)
  • Medications for sleep disorders or anxiety (alprazolam, diazepam, zolpidem)
  • Muscle relaxers (orphenadrine)
  • Narcotic pain medications (codeine)
  • Psychiatric medications (chlorpromazine, risperidone, amitriptylinetrazodone)

Always check the labels on medicines because they may contain ingredients that can cause drowsiness, such as cough and cold products. You may ask your doctor or pharmacist if these products are safe to use while taking benzonatate. 


  • May provide relief for a dry and irritating cough 
  • Fast-acting formulation
  • A non-narcotic drug
  • Has a generic version available


  • Sedation
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Nausea,
  • Skin itching
  • Nasal congestion
  • A burning sensation in the eyes
  • In some cases, it can cause bizarre behavior, which includes hallucinations and confusion (often associated with the concomitant use of other drugs)
  • Severe allergic reactions when the medication is chewed or sucked instead of swallowing it whole  
  • Can cause a fatal overdosage, particularly in children