OTC Medicines for Cough: What You Need to Know

Over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines are a common way to relieve the symptoms of a cough. There are two main types of OTC cough medicines: suppressants and expectorants.

Cough suppressants work by blocking the cough reflex. This can be helpful for dry coughs that are not productive (meaning they do not bring up mucus). Some common cough suppressants include:

  • Dextromethorphan (DM)
  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex)
  • Robitussin DM
  • Delsym
  • Buckley’s Mixture Cough Suppressant

Expectorants work by thinning mucus, making it easier to cough up. This can be helpful for productive coughs that are bringing up mucus. Some common expectorants include:

  • Guaifenesin (Mucinex)
  • Robitussin
  • Benylin

Combination cough medicines contain both a suppressant and an expectorant. These can be helpful for coughs that are both dry and productive.

Choosing an OTC Cough Medicine

The best way to choose an OTC cough medicine is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They can help you choose a medicine that is right for your symptoms and medical history.

Here are some things to consider when choosing an OTC cough medicine:

  • The type of cough you have: If you have a dry cough, you will need a suppressant. If you have a productive cough, you will need an expectorant. If you have both a dry and productive cough, you will need a combination cough medicine.
  • Your medical history: Some OTC cough medicines can interact with other medicines you are taking. Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist about all of the medicines you are taking, including OTC medicines, vitamins, and supplements.
  • Your age: Some OTC cough medicines are not safe for children or adults over 65 years of age. Be sure to read the label carefully before taking any OTC cough medicine.

Using OTC Cough Medicines Safely

It is important to use OTC cough medicines safely. Here are some tips:

  • Do not take more than the recommended dose. Taking too much of an OTC cough medicine can be dangerous.
  • Do not take two or more OTC cough medicines that contain the same ingredients. This can lead to an overdose.
  • Be careful if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some OTC cough medicines are not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking any OTC cough medicine if you have any medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, or liver disease.

If you have any questions about OTC cough medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They can help you choose the right medicine for your symptoms and medical history.

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