Cough Syrup, Cough Drops, Menthol Rub: What’s Best?
A visit to your pharmacy reveals row upon row of cough drops, cough syrups and other products. How well do they work? Family medicine physician Donald Ford, MD, provides The Short Answer.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
When choosing cough drops or rubs, keep in mind that “medicated” products aren’t truly medicated. They usually contain menthol, an aromatic substance that opens the airways to help reduce cough and congestion.
Cough syrups can contain any combination of these over-the-counter medicines:
(Parents should be aware that cough syrups and menthol rubs are not recommended for children. Cough lozenges and honey are fine after age 1.)
A couple of prescription medications can suppress cough: benzonatate (Tessalon Perles®) and promethazine cough syrup. Both are effective and non-narcotic.
But by far the simplest, safest treatment for cough and congestion is good hydration: drinking lots of fluids or rinsing the nasal passages with a saline solution.
— Family medicine physician Donald Ford, MD