Dry Coughs

Dry coughs are best treated with a medicine that stops the urge to cough. The cough has no purpose and the irritation on the chest is more nuisance than benefit. There are several medicines available which have just this action. The medical term for a cough suppressant is an antitussive.

Even though you may have a dry cough, it is still difficult to decide which medicine to use as the choice in this area is so wide. As such, rather that dealing with individual products, we will look at the agents within these products. The main ones are codeine, pholcodine and dextromethorphan.

There are also more general things you can do to help with your cough.


Codeine is not common nowadays due to its potential to abuse, however some chemists may still sell it in the form of a linctus (syrup like medicine) called codeine linctus. It works by suppressing the urge to cough. It is very effective but has some drawbacks. It can cause constipation, however, this is reversible upon discontinuing use of the product.


Pholcodine is now the recommended replacement for codeine linctus, it is just as effective but manages to avoid the problems that are encountered with the use of codeine. Again it is usually available in liquid form, but can be taken as tablets and capsules along with other active ingredients. For example, cold and flu remedies often have pholcodine as an ingredient.


Dextromethorphan is less common than the other two ingredients, however it is just as useful. It is available in a liquid form, however it does not usually get used in cold and 'flu products.

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