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The most important key is to understand how the cough syrup or cough medicine works. That includes knowing what the side effects are. Then talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your cough or cough medicine. Trust your doctor to make the best decision with your overall health in mind.
Which Cough Syrups and Cough Medicines Suppress Coughing?
Cough suppressants relieve your cough by blocking the cough reflex. Dextromethorphan, or DM, is the most common cough suppressant. Dextromethorphan does not have the pain-relieving and addictive properties of codeine, a narcotic cough suppressant that requires a doctor's prescription.
If you have a dry, hacking cough, dextromethorphan may give you relief. Generally, these cough syrups and cough medicines are not used to suppress a cough where you cough up mucus. A productive cough helps clear secretions and mucus from the airways. Talk to your doctor if you have a productive cough that's preventing you from sleeping.
How Do Expectorants Stop a Cough?
An expectorant is a drug that thins mucus so you can cough it up easier. While many experts say that drinking water is the most effective way to loosen mucus, you can also use such medications as guaifenesin to thin mucus so it can be cleared from the airway. Clearing thick mucus from the airways can decrease coughing. The most frequent side effect of expectorants is nausea and vomiting.
Do Topical Cough Medicines Stop Coughs?
Camphor and menthol are commonly used topical cough medicines. These natural, aromatic cough medicines are rubbed on the throat and the chest. The anesthetic action of their vapors is thought to ease coughing and soothe stuffiness from a cold.
Quick GuideCold and Flu: Finding Relief for Your Cough
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Need help identifying pills and medications?
Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.