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Best Over The Counter Treatment for Coughs

Coughs can be irritating and uncomfortable but will usually resolve within three to four weeks.


Meanwhile, there are many over the counter treatments and self-care tricks you can use to soothe your irritated throat, ease the tickle, loosen any stubborn phlegm and get back on your feet faster.


Keep reading to find out what exactly causes coughs, the symptoms and what our team here at Whitworth recommends you use to treat them.


Struggling with symptoms of a cold or flu? Read our Winter Health: Cold and Flu Guide here.

What causes coughs?

Coughs are your body’s way of getting rid of an irritant or something blocking your airways. They can be caused by a wide range of factors that include:

●       Allergens such as pollen, dust, animal dander and mould

●       Irritants such as smoking, pollution, chemical fumes, perfumes, air fresheners and inhaling second-hand smoke

●       Illnesses such as the common cold, flu, COVID-19, pneumonia, sinus infections, whooping cough

●       Medical problems such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lung cancer and heart failure


Dry coughs vs chesty coughs

If you want to find the right treatment for your cough, you should first work out whether you have a dry or chesty cough. By doing so, you and your family are more likely to get relief and feel better faster.

Dry cough

A dry cough is tickly, irritating and relentless. It doesn’t produce any phlegm (known as a non-productive cough) and is often caused by a viral illness such as cold or flu, allergies or inhaling dust or smoke. To feel better, you’ll need something to calm and soothe your throat and chest.

Chesty cough

Chesty coughs are your body’s way of getting rid of any phlegm that has built up in your airways. This phlegm plays a really important role in trapping bacteria, dust and other particles when you get sick, yet can be difficult to cough up.


To treat a chesty cough, you’ll need to look for a cough medicine that contains expectorants- active ingredients that can help break up the mucus so your body can get rid of it.


Best cough treatment for dry coughs

Benylin Dry & Tickle Cough

With active ingredients, glycerol and sucrose, this cough medicine will help lubricate your sore throat and soothe the tickle. Suitable for children over the age of one and adults.

Buy here


Covonia Dry & Tickly Cough

This non-drowsy, vegan-friendly cough syrup will help relieve discomfort and tackle your cough, head-on. Contains glycerol to coat the throat.

Buy here


Buttercup Original Cough Syrup

If you’re looking for a traditional herbal remedy to treat your cough symptoms, choose Buttercup Syrup. Non-drowsy and highly effective, it can help soothe irritation so you can get on with your day.

Buy here.


Best cough treatments for chesty coughs

Benylin Chesty Cough Non Drowsy 150ML

When you have a chesty cough but don’t have time to stop, choose this soothing and relieving cough medicine. It helps get rid of phlegm, clear congestion and get you back on your feet!

Buy here.


Covonia Chesty Cough Syrup Sugar Free 150ml

Choose Covonia Chesty Cough syrup when you want to get rid of that cough and eliminate mucus without increasing your sugar intake. Suitable for adults, the elderly and children over 12.

Buy here.


Benylin Mucus Cough Honey & Lemon

Containing the expectorant, guaifenesin, this powerful cough syrup can help loosen phlegm and make it easier to cough up. Suitable for adults, the elderly and children over 12 years old.

Buy here.


Best natural cough treatments

There are also many self-care tricks and home remedies that you can use to treat your cough. These can be used alongside over the counter treatments.


Drink plenty of fluids

When you are unwell, your body usually needs extra fluid to replace what it is losing as it fights back. Make sure you drink more such as water, herbal tea or warm water with honey or ginger tea (not for children under 1).

Suck a lozenge or cough sweet

To soothe your throat and ease irritation, suck a boiled sweet, throat lozenge, or use a throat spray.


Steam inhalation

To loosen stubborn mucus, fill a bowl with boiling water, place a tea towel over your head then inhale the steam. Always supervise children closely if using this method.



Clear viruses and bacteria from your throat by mixing salt with warm water, gargling then spitting out. Repeat twice per day.


If you’re struggling with your cough symptoms, pop into your local Whitworth Pharmacy for free advice from one of our friendly pharmacists.