How to choose the cough medicine that’s right for you

In the seemingly endless aisle of over the counter cough and cold medicines, it can be hard to know what to choose.  Dr. Scott Joy, with Swedish Medical Center, says there are five things to keep in mind before you make your decision.

  1. A cough expectorant is designed to get mucus out of the lungs by thinning it.  “It can help loosen up the mucus.  So, a compound like Mucinex helps keep that mucus thinner, and you have smaller particles that you are able to cough up a little bit easier,” Dr. Joy said.
  2. A cough suppressant is different.  It works to stop the cough reflex.  This can be helpful is you are losing sleep with a dry cough.
  3. Multi-symptom cough and cold medications may simplify treatment, but you may end up taking medicine for symptoms you don’t have, and if you are already taking something like Tylenol, make sure you aren’t doubling up.  “So very important to look at the label.  See what is in that multi-symptom medication, and make sure you are not doubling the dose to levels that might get you into trouble,” Joy said.
  4. Antihistamines like Benadryl can dry up nasal drip and help a cough generally caused by allergy.  Some can help a patient sleep through the night, which is something Dr. Joy says is very important.  “Find a way to get as much rest as you can.  So cough medicines that have a little bit more of sedative effect, that help people sleep, is probably the best way to go,” Dr. Joy said.
  5. There are natural alternatives that really help.  Just try hydrating, using a humidifier and taking some honey.
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