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How should I choose a cough syrup?

Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

Pick an over-the-counter cough syrup with DM from your pharmacy, and keep it in your medicine cabinet. Look for Robitussin DM or Triaminic Cough and Cold or the generic store equivalents. The primary ingredient you are looking for is the DM -- the dextromethorphan. This is the cough suppressant portion. The other active ingredients tend to be decongestants and antihistamines. If you pick the pure cough syrups rather than the cough and cold combos, you can choose your own decongestants/antihistamines (to control side effects like sleepiness).


If you have developed a cough that is lasting all night long, preventing you from sleeping and leaving you with sore stomach muscles from all that coughing, a prescription cough syrup may be the right answer. Ask your doctor. But remember that these are addictive, so if you have a tendency toward preferring medications that give you a slight buzz, this is not something you should keep around your home.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.