How to Stop a Cough with the Best Medicine

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
December 14, 2017

How to stop a cough? Most OTC remedies do not work. Try antihistamines, Manukah honey, dark chocolate, elderberry syrup, and beet juice.

Most coughs brought on by a cold or the flu go away within days. You don’t need to do a thing. But if yours has lasted longer, you might want to learn about some of the little-known secrets of how to stop a cough.

The first secret: there’s scant evidence for standard over-the-counter treatments for cough or colds. That applies to dextromethorphan (DXM), which you’ll find in NyQuil, Coricidin HBP Cough & Cold, Delsym, and Dimetapp DM. The same is true of the expectorant guaifenesin, the key ingredient in Mucinex, Robitussin, Tussin, and Guaifenesin LA.

Coughs are typically caused by post-nasal drip, so anything that makes your nose less runny may help. You might think that antihistamines — Loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) — are only effective to fight allergic reactions. Actually, blocking histamine, which triggers mucus, can be helpful even if you don’t have an allergy. The well-regarded Cochrane Group has found that antihistamines can help a bit in the first day or two of a cold in adults, but not children.

The downside is that antihistamines can make you drowsy and can trigger water retention, which isn’t safe if you have glaucoma or an enlarged prostate.


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March 20, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN