Do OTC remedies relieve cough in acute URIs?

J Fam Pract. 2009 Oct;58(10):559a-c.


Dextromethorphan (DM) for adults and honey for children provide some relief. DM may modestly decrease cough in adults compared with placebo. The data supporting zinc for the common cold are mixed. Antihistamines, antihistamine-decongestant combinations, and guaifenesin do not provide greater relief than placebo in adults. In children, antihistamines, decongestants, DM, or combinations of them do not relieve cough better than placebo. Honey may modestly decrease frequency and severity of cough compared with DM or no treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Dextromethorphan / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Guaifenesin / therapeutic use
  • Histamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Honey*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Nasal Decongestants / therapeutic use
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Zinc / therapeutic use


  • Histamine Antagonists
  • Nasal Decongestants
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Guaifenesin
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Zinc