When you get sick and have an irritating cough, you probably just want it to go away. There are dozens of medications on the pharmacy shelves that promise to quiet the cough, but do they actually work?
There are two different types of cough medicines - expectorants and suppressants. They work very differently and which one you take depends on the type of cough you are experiencing.
Expectorants are a class of cough medicine that help to get congestion out of your lungs. They thin the mucous and help you cough it out more easily. Expectorants are useful when you have thick congestion and you can't cough it up on your own. Because they help make your cough more productive, expectorants can help prevent illnesses such as pneumonia.
Some common expectorants available over the counter include:
Cough suppressants are a class of cough medicine that help you stop coughing. There has been some debate about the efficacy of cough suppressants. Because coughing is a natural response to foreign substances in the lungs, it is not always a good idea to suppress the cough. Many doctors have found they are not even effective, especially in children. But many people still feel cough suppressants are necessary. If you decide to use cough suppressants, they are best used only at night when you are having trouble sleeping.
Some common cough suppressants available over the counter include: