Coughing is more than just an uncomfortable bother. It's your body’s way of clearing mucus and irritants from your lungs and windpipe. This helps prevent infections from setting in, like pneumonia. Most of the time, coughs go away on their own in a week or two. But during that time, you may consider taking some medicine to make you more comfortable.
In the WebMD Ear, Nose, & Throat Community, one member complains of cold-like symptoms with a productive cough -- a cough that brings up phlegm. She wonders which type of cough medicine she should take since there are so many to choose from.
Health expert Rod Moser, PA, PhD, helps her understand the differences between various cough medicines. There are two basic types, he says.
- Suppressants. These medicines quiet your cough and are useful for when you need to sleep. They can also give your chest a chance to rest if it hurts from coughing. A cough suppressant's ingredient list will include dextromethorphan or menthol.
- Expectorants. These kinds of cough syrups help thin mucus so you can cough it up more effectively. A cough expectorant's ingredient list will include guaifenesin.