Cough medicines fill the shelves at drugstores and department stores because a cough associated with a cold or flu can be irritating. A cough is a constant reminder of feeling ill, and it can be annoying to friends, family members and co-workers. To get relief, many people take cough medicines either as stand-alone medications or as part of cold-symptom drugs. Here are some that are available.
Dextromethorphan is an over-the-counter cough suppressant that works by affecting the portion of the human brain associated with coughing. It is found in most cold remedies and cough medicines, and is sold as a liquid or capsule. It is found in such brand names as Vicks 44 Cough Relief, Miltuss, Pediacare, Benylin Pediatric Formula, Creomulsion, Dexalone, Robitussin, Simply Cough, Father John's Medicine, ElixSure Cough Children's, Delsym, Robafen Cough, Silphen DM, Children's Pedia Care, Babee Cof Syrup, Nycoff and Pedicare Long-Acting Cough. Side effects may include blurry vision, restlessness, nausea, urination difficulties, confusion, drowsiness, headache, abdominal pain and constipation.
Guaifenesin thins phlegm or mucus in people's lungs to help suppress or reduce coughing. It is found in both prescription and over-the-counter strengths. It is sold as Mucinex, Bidex 400, Diabetic Tussin EX, Drituss G, Amibid LA, Allfen, Altarussin, Guaifenex G, Guaifenex LA, Robitussin, Altarussin and Diabetic Siltussin DAS-Na. It may be contained in liquid or pill form, or as part of other cold and flu remedies. Guaifenesin may cause abdominal pain, a rash, diarrhea, hives, nausea, headaches, dizziness or vomiting.
Codeine is a prescription-only remedy for coughs. It is an antitussive and acts on the brain's cough center, just as dextromethorphan does. Codeine is a narcotic and may make your body dependent on it with prolonged use. That means the main side effect is drug addiction. Other narcotics that may be used to suppress coughs include hydromorphone, dihydrocodeine and hydrocodone.
Carbetapentane is a non-narcotic cough suppressant. Brand names include Rentamine 12, Tustan 12S, Tannihist 12RF, Ricotuss H and others. Side effects may include confusion, seizures, constipation, insomnia, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, dizziness and headaches.
Caramiphen is a cough suppressant marketed as Tusso-Gest, Ordrine AT, Tuss Vernade and Rescaps-D. It is prescribed as capsules or tablets. Caramiphen may produce such side effects as high blood pressure, nausea, insomnia, headaches, a rash, chest pains, dizziness or drowsiness. Some pre-existing conditions should be mentioned to a doctor before the medicine is prescribed. These include depression, high blood pressure, asthma, kidney disease, glaucoma and diabetes.