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Over-The-Counter Cough Treatments. By Our Pharmacy Student, Matt Hammond.

Hi, everyone, it’s Matt, the student pharmacist here at Plain City Druggist for the month of November. Cold season is upon us and few things can be more frustrating than dealing with a pesky cough. Since there are numerous over-the-counter (OTC) formulations available, picking the right medicine to treat your cough can be a chore in and of itself! Cough medications available over-the-counter can be separated into two main categories: expectorants and suppressants.

After reading this post, you’ll be able to make an informed decision to choose the appropriate medicine to treat your nagging cough.

Expectorants are cough medications used to thin mucus present in the airway so that coughing may more easily remove the mucus. Thus, expectorants help to make coughs more “productive”–meaning coughs can get rid of the accumulated mucus. If it feels like you have a lot of congestion in your lungs and throat but can’t seem to cough it up, choose a cough remedy containing guaifenesin. Common products with guaifenesin include Mucinex® and Robitussin®. However, several “store brand” generic formulations are also available and are usually placed right next to the comparable name brand products.

Antitussives are cough medications used for suppressing non-productive coughs. Coughing that is dry and hacking in nature is considered non-productive.  To stop that annoying cough, look for products containing dextromethorphan. Common products containing dextromethorphan include Delsym®, a 12-hour extended-release formulation, and Robitussin DM®. Generic formulations of these products are also available. Benadryl® or its generic, diphenhydramine, is another medication which may be used to help stop coughs. This medication is best used at night around bedtime, as it tends to increase drowsiness. Cough drops containing menthol, as well as applying Vicks VapoRub® around the nose, can help to soothe the throat and lower the urge to cough.

There are also several alternative treatments that don’t use medication which you can try alone or together with the above remedies to help relieve your cough. Hard candy can help stimulate saliva production, reduce throat irritation, and may reduce coughing. Some new OTC cough treatments use honey as the active ingredient and may be especially useful to children between one and two years of age who cannot take expectorants and antitussives. Humidifiers and vaporizers work to increase the amount of moisture in the air of a room and can help to soothe irritated airways. Finally, simply increasing your fluid intake, especially water, can help to loosen phlegm and make coughs more productive.

If you still have questions about the best way to treat your cough after reading this article, please stop in and talk to one of our pharmacists here at Plain City Druggist!

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