Cough Medicine: Which One Works For You?

With tens, if not hundreds of choices available at the drug store, looking for the best cough medicine can be a big daunting, especially to people who are not very familiar with the terminologies used to describe specific effect and purpose of medicines.

This article will try to explain the different choices there is and help you evaluate which type you need to treat your cough.

There are basically two types of over-the-counter cough medicines, the suppressants and the expectorants. These two work differently, and one you’ll choose depends on the type of cough you’re experiencing.

Common Cough Medicine


The most basic function for this cough medicine is to help you stop coughing. There has been quite a lot of debates about the efficacy of suppressing coughs, as coughing is our body’s natural way or fighting viruses, ward off bacterial infections, and keeping foreign substances off our lungs, making not always a good idea to suppress a cough. However, many doctors and health practitioners still believe that this type of medicine is important.

Suppressants block the natural reflex of our body to cough out phlegm and alleviate the cough symptoms. This medicine is more effective for dry and hacking cough. Lemon juice and honey are often used along with hot water or tea for dry coughs as well, but honey is not suitable for kids under one year of age.

The basic idea here is that, if your cough is productive, and it doesn’t hurt your chest to cough, then you better not suppress it. Suppressants are best used at night, when your cough is causing you trouble sleeping. Three common suppressants available in the market now are: Delsym, Dextromethorphan (Generic), and Robitussin Cough. Never overdose yourself with suppressants, some brands can harm if taken excessively.


Expectorants, on the other hand, help the congestion out of the lungs from thinning the mucous and making it easier to cough out. This type of cough medicine is very useful in dealing with thick coughs that are hard to cough out. Expectorants work by making each coughing more productive, and prevent the development of the illness and infections that develops in the lungs, such as pneumonia.

Though expectorants make mucous thinner, it is still very important for patients to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to make mucous even thinner and help the lungs cough them out. Three of the most common expectorants available in the market today are: Guaifenasin (generic), Mucinex and Robitussin.

Drug Labels

In buying any medicine for cough or other illnesses, it is important to read the label for its side effects and possible drug interactions. When in a drugstore, always ask the pharmacist for the section, warnings, and right dosage of the medicine. If you’re still not quite sure, then visit your physician and ask for a prescription.

As for the ingredients of the medicines, avoid taking two or more medication that includes the similar active ingredients. If the ingredients include alcohol or codeine, you might want to refer to your physician or to pharmacists for safer alternatives. Pharmacists can point out cheaper and better options for you; there are times when they refuse to sell specific medicines if they think its unsuitable for patients, and many of them really care of their buyer’s health and pockets.

Always follow directions written on the labels, and take only as directed. If your cough lasts more than a week, then have it checked by your doctor for any possible infections.