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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Adult and Senior Health Medications to treat cough

Medications to treat cough

Cough medications can be classified as antitussives (cough suppressants) and expectorants (Mucolytics). Antitussives suppress to urge to cough, while mucolytics loosens the mucus of the respiratory tract.


Mucolytics or expectorants                      

  • A mucolytic agent or expectorant is any agent which dissolves thick mucus and is eases respiratory difficulties.
  • It does so by dissolving glycosaminoglycans, tending to break down or lower the viscosity of mucin-containing body secretions.
  • An expectorant increases bronchial secretions and mucolytics.
  • Expectorants reduce the thickness of bronchial secretions thus increasing mucus flow that can be removed more easily through coughing.


Guaifenesin, Guaiacosulfonate, Ipecacuanha, Potassium iodide and others


N- acetyl cysteine, Ambroxyl, Bromhexine, Carbocysteine, Mesna, Steptonin and others




Agents that suppress cough act centrally on the medullary cough center.

Indications of antitussives

  • Dry or non productive chronic cough
  • Allergic, irritating cough
  • If the cough interferes sleep or activity

Cough suppressants

Opiods and derivatives 

Benzyl morphine, Codeine, Dihydrocodeine, Dextromethorphan, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Noscapaine, Pholcodeine,


Diphenhydramine, Dimethoxanate, Dibunate, Oxalamine, and others



Other remedies

  • Stop smoking and get active about passive smoking
  • Avoid allergens and environmental irritants
  • Drink plenty of fluids; fluids make the mucus more watery and easy to cough up
  • Drink plenty of fluids while taking expectorants. Fluids will help to break up mucus and clear congestion.
  • Breathe warm and moist air, it will vaporize the thick mucus and loosens the secretions
  • Steam inhalation will also help to liquefy mucus
  • If bacterial infection is suspected, antibiotics are needed to overcome the infection
  • If GERD is suspected, acid reflux need to be treated