If you have only a cough, for instance, take a medication that is only a cough suppressant. You should always try to avoid taking medications that address symptoms you don’t have.
There are 2 main types of over-the-counter cough medications: antitussives (cough suppressants), such as dextromethorphan (Robitussin, for example); and expectorants (to help clear mucus), such as guaifenesin (Mucinex, for example). Many medications have a combination of active ingredients that include cough suppressants, antitussives, fever reducers, and painkillers. Look for a medication that fully encompasses the symptoms you’re feeling. Over-the-counter medications aren’t safe for everyone. People with high blood pressure, for example, must be careful when choosing cold medicines and should avoid oral decongestants that contain phenylephrine. It’s never a bad idea to consult your doctor or pharmacist before choosing or using medication. Take the medication exactly as directed on the package, or by your doctor.