What is the best readily available cough suppressant I can buy?
September 30, 2008 6:41 AM   Subscribe

What is the best readily available cough suppressant I can buy?

I'm recovering from the flu (with a bad residual cough) - and I have to moderate a conference for 8+ hours tomorrow!

So... panic mode:

What is the best cough suppressant I can easily get my hands on???

In this situation, I don't care about long-term therapeutic benefits - I just want something that will let me not cough for 8 hours while I try to talk.

Any ideas?
posted by jdruk to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go with Robitussin DM. That works pretty good for me. Keep sipping some lemony tea, too.
posted by codswallop at 6:51 AM on September 30, 2008

Dextromethorphan is what you'll probably want.
Brand-name (Delsym, Robitussin Cough Long-Acting) or the generic equivalent.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:53 AM on September 30, 2008

Not sure where you are, but Buckley's is pretty good stuff (I am pretty sure I've only ever seen it in Canada, though).
posted by Grither at 6:56 AM on September 30, 2008

A lot of people seem to like Delsym, but it's never worked all that great for me. I prefer a daytime cold/flu medicine, like Dayquil or Theraflu, those have always helped me out.
posted by brandman at 6:57 AM on September 30, 2008

You should also ask your pharmacist for their opinion when you're at the drugstore. Pharmacists are fantastic about suggesting otc medications for your symptoms
posted by MissSquare at 6:58 AM on September 30, 2008

I'm sure folks will disagree, but in that mode I generally try to ingest as much Vitamin C as I possibly can in a short period of time. I'll drink half a gallon of OJ in a day, make sure I've taken my vitamin, and then suck on the 100% vitamin C cough drops. It seems to work fairly well for getting rid of the cough in a short period of time.
posted by TomMelee at 6:58 AM on September 30, 2008

Buckley's Cough Syrup. You can find it in any grocery/drug store. It taste gawd-awful, but it'll stop your cough instantly.
posted by SheIsMighty at 6:58 AM on September 30, 2008

I was coming in to recommend Buckleys' as well; it is indeed mostly sold in Canada, but some -- not all -- drug stores in the U.S. do carry it.

It does indeed taste absolultely terrible. Imagine melting down a Vicks' mentholated cough drop, steeping a bunch of pine needles in it, and then sprinkling in some ground-up mothball for seasoning. But does it ever work.

(Heh; I had a bottle backstage when we were rehearsing for a show last year; the lead had a bad cough he was trying to shake, and I brought it in mostly for him. He politely demured for a while, saying he had his own stuff, but one day he forgot it and asked after it. I sent him backstage to have a dose, warning him "and just so you know, it tastes REALLY bad". He came back out from the backstage two minutes later to where I was standing, and had a haggard look on his face. "Whoa, you weren't kidding," he said.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 AM on September 30, 2008

Yeah, Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, DayQuil, etc.) will suppress a cough very effectively, but it is also a mild hallucinogen, and will likely turn you into a zombie. I wouldn't want to moderate a conference on DXM.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 7:13 AM on September 30, 2008

Delsym has always worked well for me. If it's really bad, see if your doc will write you a script for Tessalon Perles. It's a prescription pill that works fabulously. It's been around for quite a while so it is also cheap (relatively speaking).
posted by COD at 7:18 AM on September 30, 2008

Dextromethorphan is the key. I've found the cheapest/easiest way to get it was with a generic version of Mucinex. Look for dextromethorphan as the active ingredient. It might also be necessary to up your dosage to get the cough, but be careful I think it can be a hallucinogen at high doses.

Buckley's has two effects. One is with the the dextromethorphan and the other because it's like eating vick's vapo rub. The menthol affect is relatively temporary though. I'd suggest using menthol cough drops. It will be a lot more discrete then chugging buckley's. Especially since you're going to have to make a noise after you drink it. (horrid stuff)
posted by jefftang at 7:20 AM on September 30, 2008

When I'm at the dentist with a slight cold or whatever, ie if there's the slightest chance I might cough when she's in the middle of something where coughing would be very bad, she always gives me these zinc tablet things to suck on; they dissolve in your mouth. They work. I've yet to find something OTC that works as well as those things, however, but if you see zinc tablets in the drugstore they can't hurt to have on hand. Ask your pharmacist?
posted by cgg at 7:21 AM on September 30, 2008

nthing buckley's. I nearly vomit every time I take it, but It Just Works.
posted by chazlarson at 7:44 AM on September 30, 2008

COD is on the money with the recommendation to ask about benzonatate (Tessalon). I have prescribed it many times for friends with coughs and they swear by it. It is non-narcotic and thus avoids all the problems possible with codeine and it works much better than dextromethorphan (which in most OTC meds is combined with an expectorant which mean that initially at least, not only will you continue to cough but you will have a more productive cough). Unfortunately a lot of people are unfamiliar with it as it has been around for decades, which means it is cheap and doesn't have a multimillion dollar marketing campaign behind it.
posted by TedW at 8:02 AM on September 30, 2008

Also, regarding DXM being a mild hallucinogen. It's not mild if you take a large amount. I'm continually surprised at how many people read a label and think, "It says to take 2? That's not very much and I'm really sick; I'll take 20!". If you try that with DXM cough syrup and crank the dose high enough, the hallucinogenic effects will not remain mild.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 8:19 AM on September 30, 2008

Cough suppressants don't work for me...like ever. The prescription ones with codeine sometimes work. The OTC stuff isn't very effective (most doctors will tell you this if you ask).

Hot lemon water sometimes works for short periods. But sadly, the best thing for coughs in my experience is a couple quick shots of nasty and strong alcohol such as Southern Comfort. It's sub-optimal for functionality afterward, but it does kill my coughs.
posted by answergrape at 8:20 AM on September 30, 2008

If you just want to not cough for a while, try honey. Just swallow a big spoonful of it. It coats your throat, it's cheap, and portable. You can grab a few more spoonfuls during the day as needed.
posted by peep at 8:43 AM on September 30, 2008

Seconding benzonatate! It's so much more effective than all those weak syrups, it works better than any OTC stuff I've found, ever.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:26 AM on September 30, 2008

I second the Delsym. I have had respiratory problems my whole life, every cold I get migrates to my chest. Delsym enables me to work when I have to, to sleep when I need to and just exist whenever I get a persistent cough.
posted by orangeRamona at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2008

Dextromethorphan is a helluva drug. One interesting thing about it is that is usually sold as these thick, syrupy, funny tasting liquids, as if to imply it is coating your throat. Dextromethorphan is available as a pill, and works exactly the same. It is a dissociative, like ketamine. It doesn't numb the irritation, it just puts you in another world than the irritation.

If you plan to up the dosage, make sure you have the Robotussin that has that only as the active ingredient. Upping the dosage on decongestants, etc, at the same time may be unpleasant or dangerous.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:43 AM on September 30, 2008

Buckley's works for me when I have a cough due to a cold, but doesn't work when I am coughing because of the flu. Ask for your pharmacist to recommend something that is tailored to your needs.
posted by orange swan at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2008

In between doses, drink warm or hot lemonade.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2008

The ACCP released a super mega awesome set of guidelines and recommendations that braced the medical world by the shoulders firmly and shook it til our bowels quaked a couple of years ago.

You can look here for some search results and reading material if your cough will keep you up tonight.

I present the relevant bits to you, but encourage you to draw your own conclusions:
- over the counter stuff is crap
- try a first-generation antihistamine (Benadryl/diphenhydramine, or Chlortimetron/chlorpheneramine)
- maybe add an NSAID (Motrin/ibuprofen, Aleve/naproxen)
- there are a lot of things that can cause cough.

First-generation antihistamines cause drowsiness in many people. It knocks me out cold. Use may be warranted if it meant suppressing a cough for a good enough reason, such as an important presentation, video game tournament, or a date with a talented and beautiful actress. Balance the need for alertness with the need for cough control, and act on the above recommendations accordingly.

ACCP = American College of Chest Physicians. They're legit. Really.
posted by herrdoktor at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2008 [8 favorites]

Be VERY CAREFUL with Robitussin, even the daytime stuff, I accidentally overdosed on it (4 times the recommended adult dosage, I thought I was only taking 2 :-).

I felt like I was going to die, I became extremely lightheaded, clamy, pale, and foggy.
posted by mhuckaba at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2008

I'm going to chime into the chorus and suggest DXM like everyone else. It's the only thing that ever works for me. If you can choke down syrup, go after the Delsym, but I prefer Robitussin Cough Gels. They do take a little longer to kick in, but worth it for me avoiding the nastiness that is cough syrup. Look at the ingridient list, if it's just DXM you can adjust dosage to treat your cough appropriately, but with many "multi-symtom" products you'll be also consuming more antihistamine, Guaifenesin or even Acedaminaphin (yay liver!) with each supplemental dose.

Not to discount anyone's bad experiences, but I've never had much trouble handling higher than normal doses of DXM (I'm kind of a big guy), but I was loopy after taking normal dosages of Guaifenesin (Robitussion Chest Congestion, Non-Drowsy), but YMMV.
posted by notpeter at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2008

I just hit on the motherlode of last-resort cough suppressant, so I thought I'd log in late on this thread in case it helps somebody. Jack Daniels whisky. The past 3 nights I've been having an awful cough that allowed me to get only 2 hours of sleep a night, so I was pretty desperate. So last night at bedtime I resolved to take 1/3 shot of whiskey every time I coughed. The progression was: 8:15 pm, cough, whiskey, 8:17 pm, cough, whiskey, 8:23 pm cough, whiskey, sleep, 9:15 pm cough, whiskey, sleep, 9:45 pm cough, whiskey, sleep, 6:15 am!! That was only about 1.5 shots of whiskey so it wasn't enough to adversely affect my sleep. No hangover either.

I think what happened is it desensitized the back of my throat enough to let it heal and develop a mucous coating, as there was a vicious cycle going on with the cough and postnasal drip. So this explains the value of hot toddies, which I did try days earlier, but toddies aren't really practical to attack a cough head-on like this.
posted by crapmatic at 4:41 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

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