Types of Cough Medications Doctors Recommend: An Overview

Few things are more annoying than getting through a day with a persistent cough, and that includes staying up all night with the same cough. Whether it’s you or a loved one experiencing this, you shouldn’t let the condition ruin your day.

coughing little girl

To prevent a cough from taking over your daily life, consider using over-the-counter medicines to get fast and effective cough relief. Getting a check-up may not be necessary for this, depending on the type of cough you have and the other symptoms that accompany it.

If you do choose to self-medicate, you must make sure that you fully understand the appropriate uses of different cough medicines before taking them. This article tackles the various cough medications that can be purchased over the counter as well as some reminders regarding their use.

3 Types Of Medications For Cough

Keep in mind that not all cough medicines are equal. In fact, they are made for different types of cough with varying accompanying symptoms. To help you pick the right one for the kind of cough that you have, below are three types of medication that can help manage certain kinds of cough:

1.    Expectorants For Chesty Cough

A wet and chesty cough with phlegm is often a good thing. This type of cough helps the body expel gunk from the airways, which is why it is medically referred to as a productive cough. However, this type of cough can also become uncomfortable and may require the help of medications, especially if it prevents you from sleeping.

Doctors recommend drinking more fluids to get rid of excess mucus in chesty coughs, but they might also advise you to medicate to hasten the process using medicines called expectorants.

A cough expectorant is most effective for coughs that are caused by too much production of thick mucus that is difficult to cough up. These cough medicines have active ingredients like guaifenesin.

Guaifenesin aids in easing chesty cough by loosening and thinning the mucus to help clear the congestion of the airways and, thus, make breathing easier. This active ingredient is often present in medicines that treat coughs caused by bronchitis, common colds, and other respiratory ailments.

However, this type of medication is usually not recommended for ongoing or chronic cough due to smoking. Also, people with long-term breathing problems like emphysema and chronic bronchitis should consult a physician first before taking guaifenesin.

2.    Antitussives For Dry Cough

A dry cough – also called the “non-productive” cough identifiable by a tickling feeling in the throat – can be managed using over-the-counter medicine with cough suppressing action.

These medicines, called “antitussives,” work by blocking the natural reflex that makes a person cough. One of the most common active ingredients listed under this category is dextromethorphan (DM).

Other ingredients such as eucalyptus oil, camphor, and menthol also have cough suppressing effects that can aid in reducing the number of times you cough. These often come in the form of ointments typically rubbed on the chest and throat as well as liquid forms used in vaporizers. Strong-smelling vapors from these substances help ease cough and clear the head.

3.    Combination Medicine

Aside from antitussives and expectorants, combination cough medicines are also available for cough relief. Some types of 24-hour cough medicine have more than one active ingredient to ease cough and other symptoms effectively.

Most of these products contain both the antitussive dextromethorphan and the expectorant guaifenesin. Other ingredients they may contain can also help soothe a sore throat.

Since managing cough essentially means easing its symptoms, you must make sure that you choose a combination cough medicine that targets your specific cough symptoms and underlying causes:

  • For allergies and runny nose, medicines with antihistamine should do the trick.
  • For a stuffy nose, take medicines with decongestant ingredients like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine.
  • If your cough comes with fever and body pains, taking cough medicines with paracetamol and other active ingredients that offer pain relief is most recommended.

Although the combination of medicines can benefit some people with several cold symptoms, it still has one downside: It gives you some other medicines that you may not need.

What To Do To Safely Use Cough Medicine: Top 3 Tips

Using cough medicine effectively and safely entails more than just knowing their names – you must also understand how to use them correctly. Below are three tips you must remember when using any type of cough medicine:

1.    Read The Label

Reading the label will let you know several things. This includes the active ingredients they contain, which essentially tells you whether it is an expectorant, antitussive, or both.

Checking the label will also help you understand the possible side effects, precautions, and interactions these ingredients may have with certain conditions and medications.

2.    Don’t Go Taking Cough Medicine Beyond 7 Days Without Expert Guidance

A cough that lasts more than a week may be a sign of a more serious problem. Make sure you consult a doctor before continuing your intake of cough medicine if it lasts beyond seven days.

3.    Take Medicines In The Right Dosage

Not following the right cough syrup dosage can be dangerous – fatal, even. This is because even medicines that are labeled safe can cause complications when taken in high doses. This can range from brain damage, seizure, or even death.

Final Thoughts

Whether it is an expectorant, suppressant, or both, cough medicine is most effective when used the right way. Make sure you know which one to take, how much, and when to stop taking it with the help of this article. Even better, seek guidance from a licensed medical professional to determine the underlying cause of your cough and, ultimately, manage it better.


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