What Are Cough Suppressants?

Robitussin cold medicine
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Cough suppressants are a class of cough medication that are intended to suppress (stop) a cough. They work by blocking the cough reflex and are also known as antitussives. Cough suppressants are most useful for people who are having difficulty sleeping due to coughing.

The most commonly used over-the-counter cough suppressant is dextromethorphan. It is sold under many different brand names, including:

  • Delsym
  • Robitussin Cough
  • Triaminic Long Acting Cough
  • Vicks Formula 44

In certain situations, doctors may prescribe cough medications that use codeine or other narcotics to suppress the cough reflex when OTC products aren't effective. However, these should only be used in rare circumstances when your health care provider feels it is necessary.

You should not use cough suppressants to treat a cough that is caused by asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or smoking. Suppressing the cough reflex in these cases can lead to secondary infections.

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