Best Cough Suppressant: A Comprehensive Guide

There are lots and lots of cough suppressants out on the market right from both well-known brand names to generics from nearly every corner on the globe that you can get out on the market. This, combined with the aggressive ad campaigns run by pharmaceutical companies all over the United States makes choosing the best cough suppressant a real challenge.

In itself, the ‘right’ cough suppressant is something pretty hard to put your finger on because there are various factors to consider, including what kind of a cough you’re having and the presence of other symptoms such as migraines. When it comes to drugs, you have to get down to the core of how the medicine works and fine-tune it with your specific condition.

With that said, general coughs that come after the flu, for instance, or a simple allergic reaction to the environment can be easily gotten rid of with a cough suppressant. Most times, coughs are just your body’s way of clearing the throat of mucus or foreign irritants. Coughs are usually infrequent – one that lasts for less than three weeks is called an acute cough. For about eight weeks is known as a subacute cough and anything more is known as a chronic cough. Luckily enough, most cough episodes aren’t significantly ominous and the use of a cough suppressant can help with the process. However, if you experience a ‘barking’ a cough, one accompanied by wheezing or whistling sound, see your doctor. Additionally, should the medicine not take effect within a week (or otherwise the period stated on the bottle), you should also see your doctor.

Common Causes of Coughs

The most common causes of coughs experienced by people on a day-to-day basis are smoking, asthma viruses, bacteria, and damage to the vocal cords. All these except viruses should be trivial to take care of.

What precautions can you take to avoid coughs?

While coughing is completely necessary as it’s perhaps the only way your body can get rid of contaminants in your airway, there are some other ways to avoid a cough, to begin with, as per the aphorism: prevention is better than cure.

Quit smoking

Smoking is a huge contributor to chronic coughs. Aside from other complications that may arise as a result, like throat cancer, the smoker’s cough is pretty hard to get rid of. A cough suppressant may help, but at the end of the day, as long as the smoke goes down your throat, it’s very likely the cough will come back. Once you quit smoking, you are far less likely to catch chronic coughs and colds.

Handle yourself properly around the sick

The last common cause of chronic coughs is diseases such as bronchitis. If anyone you know has been diagnosed with such contagious illnesses, you’re advised to stay away from them to avoid coming in contact with germs. Wash your hands as frequently as possible and avoid sharing cutlery.

Eat differently

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, people who eat more fruit and fiber-rich diets are far less likely to catch chronic coughs.

Talk to your doctor

If you have pre-existing medical conditions that act towards increasing the chances of you developing a cough, such as asthma, make sure you talk to a doctor about different ways to handle it. Once handled, you should catch coughs less often or a cough should go away on its own.

Types of Coughs

There are four different types of coughs that commonly affect human beings: dry coughs, wet coughs, whooping coughs and rough coughs. It’s important to know which kind of a cough you or your child has and what they mean if you’re going to treat them with the right medicine.

A Dry Cough

A dry cough is often due to an infection in the upper respiratory tract (more specifically, the nose and tract). This may be as a result of viruses such as the influenza virus. This type of a cough usually gets worse once you’ve gotten to bed or have situated yourself in a warm room. However, a dry cough may also signal the inflection of the lower respiratory tract. And may be a sign of further complications due to bronchitis, which is the inflammation of the lung’s airways, or something similar, eg. pneumonia. Other notable causes may include asthma, which is most prevalent at night or due to exposure to irritants like dust or cigarette smoke.

Wet Cough

This is the most common type of a cough and is caused by fluid secretions and mucus found in the lungs and the windpipe. Wet coughs may also be as a result of infections or asthma, or otherwise just an exposure to common irritants like dust. This type of a cough most often serves as a way of removing fluid from the lower respiratory tract.

Whooping Cough

A whooping cough is an ailment most common in, but not exclusive to, children. A person with a whooping cough will have symptoms similar to those of an ordinary cold but gradually gets worse over time. A cough is usually loud and wheezing, comprising of 5 to 15 staccato coughs almost always in rapid succession. This kind of rapid coughing may lead to breathing problems due to the lack of the temporary shortage of oxygen.

Croup Cough

Croup is the most serious cough one can contract. It causes a harsh, barking dry cough, perhaps reminiscent of a barking seal. Once again, this is more common in children than adults and some of the symptoms of the same include a swollen upper trachea. Additionally, the victim may make a loud wheezing sound when breathing in. This is usually referred to as stridor.

Types of Cough Medicines

Despite the multitude of cough medicines on the market, they can all be broken down into roughly five different groups.


Expectorants work by thinning the mucus that builds up when you have a cough, making it much easier to get it out of your system. It technically doesn’t qualify as a suppressant. But it’s one of the easiest ways to make a cough beneficial rather than having a pointless cough that only makes you feel worse.


A good suppressant does exactly what the label says – it suppresses the cough, reducing the number of times you need to, especially when you’re sick. If you allow a cough to get really serious, it will go as far as disrupting your sleep and at times even cause you to throw up if they are bad enough. However, if you’re trying to minimise coughing in a child, make sure the medicine you give them was specifically designed for children. Children’s medicine is made less potent than adult medicine since their bodies may not be able to handle some kinds of medication.

Combination Cough Medicine

Combination cough medicines are those that have both expectorants and suppressants in them, or they can be all-inclusive medicines that have components included for specifics like runny noses. However, these aren’t the best option for really bad coughs. Those require the level of attention only specific medicines can possibly offer.

Cough Drops

Cough drops are one of the most effective ways of taming a rogue cough. They can be taken along suppressants or expectorants for maximum benefit. However, be careful when picking them out so you know they are not simple vitamin drops or even lozenges. Only methanol-based cough drops will be of any use.

Topical Cough Suppressants

Topical cough suppressants come in the form of a thick ointment that can be rubbed onto the throat and chest. You may also hear it being referred to as vapor rub. Because of the strong-smelling vapors, they can ease dry coughs and clear your sinuses, helping you to sleep better.

The Best Cough Suppressant of 2018

Mucinex DM Maximum Strength Expectorant and Cough Suppressant

Mucinex DM Maximum Strength is the best over the counter medicine you can get to quiet those notorious wet coughs. However, they are one of the few medicines we came across that can work on both wet and dry coughs. What we love the most is the fact that it works faster than most conventional medicine – breaking up the mucus in your throat and relieving chest congestion at the same time.

Every tablet has two distinct layers – the first one can absorb faster than the second for quick relief from the stress that results from bad coughs. The second absorbs slowly over time in order to suppress your cough and any resulting effects for as much as twelve hours.

In terms of popularity, Mucinex is one of the most highly recommended brands on the market, all the way from doctors, consumers and pharmacists.

Creomulsion Adult Cough Medicine

Creomulsion, in terms of medicine, can only be compared with what an alarm clock is for most people on busy mornings. There’s a whole lot of love for it, because it’s very effective at suppressing coughs, but tastes horrid. It’s just as effective as the Mucinex DM, in fact, only that you don’t need a prescription in order to buy it.

However, the Creomulsion Adult Cough Medicine is not advisable for children under the age of 12, because it may result in complications like kidney damage. For the case of adults, all you have to do is accept that it tastes terrible and let it do the rest of the job on its own. It has zero alcohol content and no artificial flavors (which explains the taste), which makes it the best choice, too, for soothing irritated throats.

Robitussin DM Non-Drowsy Cough & Chest Congestion Relief

On a slightly more serious tone, Robitussin DM is the best selection for people who have dry, persistent coughs, as is the case with those suffering from bronchitis. What’s even better is that the brand name has been around for decades, so the name is trusted in most households. It’s referred to as a ‘non-drowsy’ formula because, unlike some medicines, it doesn’t induce sleepiness.

It works best for loosening mucus that gets swarming in the chest so the coughs become much more productive (these are easier on the throat than dry coughs). If you have a stubborn cough that just won’t let go of you, it will be in for a real shock. Even better, it even takes care of those pesky symptoms like fever and headaches. No more waking up in the middle of the night because of obstinate coughs and being unable to lie back down because of a resulting headache.

Mucinex Children’s Multi-Symptom

As the name suggests, the Mucinex Children’s Multi-Symptom is best suited for children and works to get rid of all the symptoms that bundle up together with regular coughs. It will help get rid of a stuffy nose, chest congestion coughs and break up mucus.

Because the target market, in this case, is children, you need to take an extra precaution. Make sure not to go beyond the advisable maximum dosage of 6 doses in 24 hours.  In case your child is on depression medication, contact your pediatrician before giving them this type of cough medicine.


Due to lots of available cough suppressants on the market choosing the best one can be a bit challenging. This is especially because generic brand names do such a great job at overshadowing better and more recommendable medicines on the market. They all vary in terms of the scale of use and who they can (and should be used on). Brands with trusted reputations are less likely to be harmful and work in a shorter duration to get rid of coughs and the effective symptoms that come with them. However, remember that coughs help to clear the lungs of irritants like mucus and dust.

The three cough suppressants above are some of the best on the market, judged based on their:

  • relative popularity with doctors,
  • end consumers,
  • pharmacists and
  • their longevity on the market.

The latter characteristic isn’t exactly a reliable metric for filtering out the bad fish. So we did not include any surviving brands that have scandals in the past. Anyone of these should make a perfect choice for helping you keep that cough under control.

Safety when using cough medicines

The first thing to get out of the way is that you should always listen to what your doctor has to say. Some doctors may recommend not doing anything about it because it’s likely to go away on its own. While others may recommend something off of this list. Of course, you should visit the doctor should the above drugs be unable to relieve you of the discomforts of enduring a cough.

Additionally, be wary of the instructions that come together with the medicine, since some drugs just do not mix. If you’re taking multiple drugs at once, consult your doctor beforehand. For instance, dextromethorphan is a common ingredient in cough suppressants but is well-known to interfere with depression medications. Other medicines may lead to an increase in blood pressure, while others may worsen existing symptoms that are as a result of a different disease.

Some words of caution

Improper use of medicines is one of the leading causes of death in the United States (including overdose). It’s only natural, then that we finish off by giving you some tips on how to avoid being another statistic. Cough suppressants are no different from other medicines. If you treat them badly, they will definitely lead to serious organ damage and even death. Most people think an overdose refers to chugging down a whole bottle of serum, but more often, it’s just because of failure of following instructions.

Read the Label

Always read the instructions that come with the bottle. Make sure you know what you are taking for your cough. So if anything goes awry, you’ll have a simple time of explaining it to your doctor. Even better, you can skip that whole charade and not get yourself in such a position, to begin with.

Don’t take medicine for more than a week

As a general rule, over-the-counter drugs are NOT a substitute for seeing a doctor. If your cough does not improve after a week, or if the medicine doesn’t seem to have any relative improvements even after three days, go see your doctor.

Always use the correct dose

Don’t ever drink medicine out of the bottle. Also, take your medicine at the right time and just the right amount. High doses will lead to liver damage or worse, while low doses are just not effective. If anything, you may be secretly starting a superbug epidemic right in your home.

Be careful with combination medicines

Try as much as you can to avoid arbitrarily picking medicines off the counter with medicine you’re already using. When mixed in such fashions, medicine can have some pretty disastrous consequences. Always consult your doctor regarding new medicines before getting them. If you have allergic reactions, you need to follow the same advice.

Keep out of reach of children

Children are by far the most likely to be harmed by poorly handled drugs. For one, always make sure the drug you’re giving them is suitable for children. You can see this on the box or check it online. All the previous advice regarding allergies and dosage also follows. If possible, track the last time you gave the medicine to your kid. If your kid is under the age 4 you shouldn’t give him/her any cough suppressing medicine. Unless your kid’s pediatrician gives you a prescription.

Don’t treat every cough

Sometimes, a cough doesn’t really mean anything, so not treating it is the only logical course of action to follow. Of course, there’s no real way of knowing whether it does or not, so if it doesn’t go away after a few days, or if other symptoms accompany it, it’s a safe bet to see a doctor first. Self-medication doesn’t always work, and even when it does, it’s not always the best response to getting sick.


Being stuck indoors all day thanks to the flu is never fun. In fact, if a cough is bad enough, your head will pound so badly. Plus, you may not even be able to sleep. Other times, your breath is just gone and you have all kinds of trouble sleeping. Cough suppressants are meant to alleviate the pain of having to endure all this. They will be able to give you huge amounts of relief so you can perform your other duties more diligently.