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Cough Medicines & Tablets

Other names: Acute cough; Chesty cough; Chronic cough; Dry cough; Persistent cough; Tussis

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Dec 1, 2023.

There are four main classes of cough medicines: cough suppressants, expectorants, mucolytics, and natural remedies. These may be available in syrups, lozenges, tablets, or capsules, and in combination with other ingredients or by themselves.

  • Cough suppressants may help with a dry cough, and are thought to act on the cough reflex but there is not much evidence to show that they actually work. There is little to no evidence to show that they work in children and they should not be given to children under 6 years. Examples include dextromethorphan (Buckleys Mixture), benzonatate (Tessalon), carbetapentane, and codeine
  • Expectorants may help with a productive, chesty cough and lubricate the airway to help loosen up mucus and make it easier to cough up. Examples include guaifenesin (Mucinex) and potassium iodide.
  • Mucolytics thin mucus and can help with a chesty or productive cough by making it easier to cough the mucus out and they may also reduce cough frequency. Examples include bromhexine (not available in the U.S.)
  • Combination preparations, eg, codeine and guaifenesin (such as Allfen CD)

Most cough preparations contain medicines that are not recommended for use in children aged under six years

There is not enough evidence to determine if combination preparations have any effects on cough including those containing analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (eg, Tylenol Cough); antihistamines such as doxylamine or diphenhydramine (eg, Promethazine DM), or decongestants, such as phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine (eg, Deconex IR).

There is some evidence that natural remedies may reduce cough duration and severity. Examples include:

People with a cough should cough into a tissue or into the crook of their arm, wash their hands frequently to reduce spreading the cough to others, and rest. They should drink plenty of fluids (not alcohol) to keep their airways hydrated and keep their home warm, dry, and smoke and vape-free.

People with a cough that is severe, worsening, lasts more than 3 weeks, or who have underlying conditions such as asthma or COPD, should see a doctor.

For people with chronic cough, treatments may include amitriptyline, corticosteroids, bronchodilators, and acid blockers.

Drugs used to treat Cough

The medications listed below are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

Filter
Drug name Rating Reviews Activity ? Rx/OTC Pregnancy CSA Alcohol
benzonatate 4.0 775 reviews for benzonatate to treat Cough
Rx C N
Generic name:
benzonatate systemic
Brand names:
Tessalon Perles, Tessalon
Drug class:
antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Mucinex 5.2 53 reviews for Mucinex to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N
Generic name:
guaifenesin systemic
Drug class:
expectorants
For consumers:
dosage, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Benadryl 9.7 4 reviews for Benadryl to treat Cough
Rx/OTC B N X
Generic name:
diphenhydramine systemic
Drug class:
miscellaneous anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics, antihistamines, anticholinergic antiemetics, anticholinergic antiparkinson agents
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
guaifenesin 5.5 97 reviews for guaifenesin to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N
Generic name:
guaifenesin systemic
Brand names:
Mucinex, Altarussin, Amibid LA, Bidex-400, Diabetic Tussin Chest Congestion, Drituss G, Fenesin IR, Guaifenex G, Guaifenex LA, Guiatuss, Hytuss, Mucinex for Kids, Mucinex Maximum Strength, Robafen, Scot-Tussin Expectorant, Tussin Expectorant, Xpect
Drug class:
expectorants
For consumers:
dosage, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Promethazine DM 4.8 33 reviews for Promethazine DM to treat Cough
Rx C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan / promethazine systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Tessalon Perles 5.1 179 reviews for Tessalon Perles to treat Cough
Rx C N
Generic name:
benzonatate systemic
Drug class:
antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
Cheratussin AC 5.0 30 reviews for Cheratussin AC to treat Cough
Rx C M X
Generic name:
codeine / guaifenesin systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
dextromethorphan 3.6 383 reviews for dextromethorphan to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan systemic
Brand names:
Delsym, Delsym 12 Hour Cough Relief, Babee Cof, Buckley's Mixture Cough Suppressant, Buckleys Mixture, Creomulsion, DexAlone, ElixSure Cough, Hold, Robafen Cough Liquidgels, Robitussin Children's Cough Long-Acting, Robitussin CoughGels Long-Acting, Scot-Tussin Diabetes, Silphen DM, Sucrets Cough, Triaminic Long Acting Cough, Vicks Dayquil Cough, Vicks Formula 44
Drug class:
antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph
Robitussin Cough + Chest Congestion DM 9.0 4 reviews for Robitussin Cough + Chest Congestion DM to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan / guaifenesin systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
Tussionex Pennkinetic 9.4 87 reviews for Tussionex Pennkinetic to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
chlorpheniramine / hydrocodone systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Mucinex DM 5.1 13 reviews for Mucinex DM to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan / guaifenesin systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
codeine / promethazine 7.1 60 reviews for codeine / promethazine to treat Cough
Rx C 5 X
Generic name:
codeine / promethazine systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Hycodan 8.5 36 reviews for Hycodan to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
homatropine / hydrocodone systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
codeine / guaifenesin 5.3 83 reviews for codeine / guaifenesin to treat Cough
Rx C M X
Generic name:
codeine / guaifenesin systemic
Brand names:
Cheratussin AC, Guaiatussin AC, Virtussin A/C, Guaifenesin AC, Allfen CD, Cheracol with Codeine, Codar GF, Duraganidin NR, M-Clear WC, Mar-cof CG, Mytussin AC, Robafen AC
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Delsym 3.3 238 reviews for Delsym to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan systemic
Drug class:
antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
Tessalon 5.0 33 reviews for Tessalon to treat Cough
Rx C N
Generic name:
benzonatate systemic
Drug class:
antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
chlorpheniramine / hydrocodone 9.4 112 reviews for chlorpheniramine / hydrocodone to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
chlorpheniramine / hydrocodone systemic
Brand names:
Tussionex Pennkinetic, TussiCaps
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
gabapentin Off-label 6.8 6 reviews for gabapentin to treat Cough
Rx C N X
Generic name:
gabapentin systemic
Drug class:
gamma-aminobutyric acid analogs
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Off-label:
Yes
dextromethorphan / guaifenesin 5.8 25 reviews for dextromethorphan / guaifenesin to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan / guaifenesin systemic
Brand names:
Robitussin Cough + Chest Congestion DM, Mucinex DM, Tussin DM, Coricidin HBP Chest Congestion & Cough, Guaifenesin DM, Mucinex DM Maximum Strength, Mucus Relief DM, Robitussin Cough + Chest Congestion DM Maximum Strength, Aquatab DM, Bidex-A, Biocotron, Broncotron, Delsym Cough+ Chest Congestion DM, Diabetic Tuss DM, Fenesin DM IR, G-Zyncof, Guaifenex DM, HT Tuss DM, Humibid CS, Mucinex Children's Cough, Mucinex Fast-Max DM Max, Pecgen DMX, Phlemex, Safetussin DM, Scot-Tussin Senior, Siltussin-DM DAS-NA, Siltussin-DM DAS-NA Maximum Strength, Siltussin DM, Siltussin DM DAS Cough Formula, Tusnel Diabetic, Tussin DM Max, Vicks DayQuil Mucus Control DM, Zyncof
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
diphenhydramine 7.6 6 reviews for diphenhydramine to treat Cough
Rx/OTC B N X
Generic name:
diphenhydramine systemic
Brand names:
Benadryl, Allermax, Banophen, Benadryl Allergy, Benadryl Children's Allergy, Complete Allergy Relief, Dicopanol, Diphedryl, Diphen, Diphenhist, Dormin, Dytuss, Scot-Tussin Allergy, Siladryl Allergy, Silphen Cough, Twilite, Valu-Dryl
Drug class:
miscellaneous anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics, antihistamines, anticholinergic antiemetics, anticholinergic antiparkinson agents
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
AHFS DI Monograph, Prescribing Information
Hydromet 8.2 34 reviews for Hydromet to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
homatropine / hydrocodone systemic
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Dilaudid 9.0 2 reviews for Dilaudid to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
hydromorphone systemic
Drug class:
Opioids (narcotic analgesics)
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
homatropine / hydrocodone 7.9 96 reviews for homatropine / hydrocodone to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
homatropine / hydrocodone systemic
Brand names:
Hycodan, Hydromet, Tussigon
Drug class:
upper respiratory combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
acetaminophen / hydrocodone 9.7 35 reviews for acetaminophen / hydrocodone to treat Cough
Rx C 2 X
Generic name:
acetaminophen / hydrocodone systemic
Brand name:
Xodol
Drug class:
narcotic analgesic combinations
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information
Delsym 12 Hour Cough Relief 3.9 41 reviews for Delsym 12 Hour Cough Relief to treat Cough
Rx/OTC C N X
Generic name:
dextromethorphan systemic
Drug class:
antitussives
For consumers:
dosage, interactions, side effects
For professionals:
Prescribing Information

Frequently asked questions

View more FAQ

Topics under Cough

Alternative treatments for Cough

The following products are considered to be alternative treatments or natural remedies for Cough. Their efficacy may not have been scientifically tested to the same degree as the drugs listed in the table above. However, there may be historical, cultural or anecdotal evidence linking their use to the treatment of Cough.

Legend

Rating For ratings, users were asked how effective they found the medicine while considering positive/adverse effects and ease of use (1 = not effective, 10 = most effective).
Activity Activity is based on recent site visitor activity relative to other medications in the list.
Rx Prescription only.
OTC Over-the-counter.
Rx/OTC Prescription or Over-the-counter.
Off-label This medication may not be approved by the FDA for the treatment of this condition.
EUA An Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the FDA to authorize unapproved medical products or unapproved uses of approved medical products to be used in a declared public health emergency when there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.
Expanded Access Expanded Access is a potential pathway for a patient with a serious or immediately life-threatening disease or condition to gain access to an investigational medical product (drug, biologic, or medical device) for treatment outside of clinical trials when no comparable or satisfactory alternative therapy options are available.
Pregnancy Category
A Adequate and well-controlled studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy (and there is no evidence of risk in later trimesters).
B Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.
C Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
D There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use in pregnant women despite potential risks.
X Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.
N FDA has not classified the drug.
Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Schedule
M The drug has multiple schedules. The schedule may depend on the exact dosage form or strength of the medication.
U CSA Schedule is unknown.
N Is not subject to the Controlled Substances Act.
1 Has a high potential for abuse. Has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
2 Has a high potential for abuse. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
3 Has a potential for abuse less than those in schedules 1 and 2. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
4 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 3. It has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 3.
5 Has a low potential for abuse relative to those in schedule 4. Has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to those in schedule 4.
Alcohol
X Interacts with Alcohol.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.