Suppressants, oral expectorants and topical treatments are over-the-counter cough medicines, according to WebMD. Coughs that last more than eight weeks are caused by other conditions, and doctors may prescribe antibiotics, nose sprays or stomach-acid reducers, depending on the cause of the cough, says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Dextromethorphan is the most prevalent cough suppressant, and because it does not have the addictive and pain-relief qualities of the narcotic codeine, can be sold in stores, says WebMD. It works best with hacking-type coughs as opposed to coughs that produce mucus. Guaifenesin is an expectorant that helps clear mucus from airways. Menthol and camphor are topical cough medications. They are rubbed on the chest or throat, or inhaled via steam. Their vapors ease stuffiness and relieve coughing. Menthol also comes in tablets and lozenges.
For coughs caused by sinus infections, antibiotics are one avenue of treatment, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Nose sprays are another. People who cough due to allergies should avoid their triggers, and people who cough because they smoke should quit. Some medicines cause coughs as a side effect, and in those cases, doctors may prescribe a replacement medication. Humidifiers and drinking sufficient fluids are two other ways to treat coughs.