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Expectorants

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Updated January 19, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Expectorants are a class of cough medication that help thin mucous. Once mucous is thinned, it is easier to expel from the lungs by coughing.

The only over-the-counter expectorant is called guaifenesin. It is sold under multiple brand names, including:

Expectorants may be useful if you have mucous in your chest that you are having difficulty coughing up. However, it should not be used for a cough caused by COPD, asthma, smoking, emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

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