Everything You Need to Know About OTC Cough Medicine

People cough for different reasons. Regardless of the reason, though, there are some remedies that can help… and don’t require an expensive trip to the doctor. Keep reading to find out how OTC, or over the counter, cough medicine can help control your cough and which brand is best suited to keep it under control.

What are OTC cough medicines?

Whenever someone has an illness, they usually take some form of medication to heal them or at least treat their symptoms. While prescription medications are necessary for serious conditions, a doctor’s trip isn’t always necessary. That’s where over-the-counter medications can come in handy.

These medications are safe to take without the use of a doctor’s consent or recommendation. Many retail outlets like pharmacies, groceries, and retail stores sell OTC remedies, and cough medicines are among the most common type sold. While designed primarily to alleviate coughing, these medications may also help with some other symptoms as well.

How do OTC cough medicines work?

OTC cough medicines work in several different ways, depending on what they contain.

For example, antitussives, or cough suppressants, may block the cough reflex by affecting a section of the brain stem. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a popular OTC cough suppressant that can be used in tablets, syrups, lozenges, and even sprays.

Other cough medications may contain expectorants, or ingredients that effectively thin mucus. By making mucus watery, it’s easier to cough it all up, thereby clearing it from your airways. Guaifenesin is a common type of expectorant used in OTC remedies, often for those plagued by colds, allergies, or other infections.

Now, many OTC cough remedies combine different types of ingredients to achieve a desired effect. Depending on the type of cough you have, certain types of medications may be more effective for you than others.

What are the benefits of OTC cough medicines?

OTC cough medicines are great for suppressing coughs and clearing some congestive issues. However, they can also contain ingredients that may help with symptoms like watery eyes, runny noses, itchy throats, and constant sneezing. Best of all, they are often quite affordable since they don’t require a prescription.

What precautions should people take with OTC remedies?

When taking over-the-counter supplements, it’s important to:

  • Always read and closely follow the directions. Doing so may help prevent issues like drug interference and accidental overdose.
  • Never use cough suppressants for more than a few days. When symptoms don’t alleviate after a bit, it’s a good indication that a more serious problem is at play. Using cough medications for longer can also create the risk of abuse, as some medications have addictive elements.

Highly Rated Cough Medicines

Looking for the best cough medications on the market? Below are some of the most popular options in the United States.

Robitussin Cough Medicine

Robitussin cough medicine is an effective expectorant for relieving coughs. This substance loosens mucus within a person’s throat and their chest. Doing so makes makes it easier for a person to cough the mucus up, which can alleviate congestion from the cold, flu, or another infection.

This product costs about $10.00, making it incredibly affordable. Popular varieties of this medication include Maximum Strength, Children’s Cough, Long-Acting, and 12 Hour Cough Relief.

Vicks NyQuil

NyQuil is effective at fighting coughs to make it easier to sleep during bouts of the cold or flu. It is well-known for causing drowsiness, which means it’s important to avoid activities like driving while taking it.

NyQuil products typically cost between $7 – $15 a bottle.


Triaminic cough-relief products are designed for children. They use antihistamines, cough suppressants, and decongestants.

A bottle of Triaminic syrup for children usually costs between $9 – $12.

Vicks 44 Cough and Cold

Vicks Formula 44 is a fast-acting medication that tackles pain, fever, sneezing, headache, and cough to make it easier to sleep.

The average cost of this product is between $7 and $10.

Other Varieties of Cough Medicine

Mucinex, Delsym and Theraflu are other top-rated cough medicines with active ingredients that will help keep coughs under control.

Final Thoughts

Over-the-counter cough medicines are useful for controlling symptoms. In other words, they’re great for treating conditions, not curing them. By doing so, they provide your body a chance to feel better while it heals. That means that cough remedies are not permanent solutions, so you should only take them temporarily. If your condition persists and/or worsens after a few days of use, it’s a good sign that you should see a doctor.

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