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Old 10-30-2012, 03:59 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 765
Cough Expectorant without Suppressant?

I am having a heavy chested cough and I feel as though I need to hack it up; its not dry at all, just not productive.

I am asking the Dopers if there is any OTC medication that will act as an expectorant that does not have a cough suppressant? I have no need to suppress the cough urge; I want to cough it up.

On a side note I am also open to suggestions on guaifenesin alternatives as I am somewhat skeptical on the efficacy.

I have read in a few places that SSKI can be tremendously helpful at coughing up deep-seating lung congestion, but I haven't seen any drug chains that sell it. Any suggestions?

Thanks for reading!
Old 10-30-2012, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 6,957
You can buy various mucolytics and expectorants without a prescription.
Ask the pharmacist.

In my vast (seriously) experience, pretty much any potion for cough, OTC or not, is of trivial value. The cough is a pretty powerful reflex, and so you really can't suppress it much even if you try. As you mention, trying to suppress it is intuitively non-helpful anyway.

But I'm not sure mucolytics and expectorants do much either.

Stay hydrated. Try humidified air; warm if possible; cool if not. I'm not sure why I prefer warm. It just seems like it should work better.

I think you can get SSKI without an Rx, but I don't think it's a good idea. I'm actually not sure... Potassium is sort of lethal in high concentration, so I don't personally like the idea of having a supply of it around, even if you know to use only a few drops diluted out.
Old 10-30-2012, 04:29 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Suburbs of Chicagoland
Posts: 22,337
Standard Mucinex?
Originally Posted by AnthonyElite View Post
On a side note I am also open to suggestions on guaifenesin alternatives as I am somewhat skeptical on the efficacy.
... oh.

That's the only OTC one that I know of in the US, though there may be others.

Potassium iodide stimulates saliva production, from what I can tell - are you sure that's the effect you want for congestion? (Plus you can get an enlarged thyroid or other undesirable side effects.) You're probably most likely to find that in survival stores/websites due to its usual use, to prevent radiation poisoning.
Old 10-30-2012, 04:29 PM
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 15,124
Plain old Mucinex seems to be what you're looking for.
Old 10-30-2012, 04:31 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 6,083
Originally Posted by AnthonyElite View Post
On a side note I am also open to suggestions on guaifenesin alternatives as I am somewhat skeptical on the efficacy.
Well, Mucinex comes in expectorant-only versions that are pure guaifenesin. Are you saying it doesn't work for you?
Old 10-30-2012, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,469
I think you can get Mucinex with just the expectorant.
Old 10-30-2012, 04:42 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Saint Paul
Posts: 26,218
I've heard good things about Mucinex.
Old 10-30-2012, 04:52 PM
Join Date: May 2010
Location: revillagigedo
Posts: 2,449
Originally Posted by AnthonyElite View Post
On a side note I am also open to suggestions on guaifenesin alternatives as I am somewhat skeptical on the efficacy.
Vickís Vapor Rub, and hot shower, and some forced deep breaths every morning after you wake up.
Old 10-30-2012, 04:58 PM
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Posts: 90
I never understood why so many cough suppresants also have an expectorant. Is it to make coughs less frequent but more productive when they do occur?
Old 10-30-2012, 07:06 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 10,104
Vicks and/or Mucinex, and spend some quality time in your steam room. Alternatively, run a couple inches of blazing-hot water in your bathtub, then turn on the showerhead. Don't get in the shower, but stand around and inhale for 10-15 minutes. It will become much easier to cough. If you don't have very hot water (or don't want to get all steamy), you can boil a pot of water on your sink and inhale from that. I find the shower is more effective, though.
Old 10-30-2012, 08:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Chicago, Far Northsider
Posts: 7,810
I find plain old guaifenesin to work fine, it also helps if my ears are clogged up from a cold, which seems to happen more the older I get. It works best if I've been pushing lots of fluids, of course.
Old 10-30-2012, 09:07 PM
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Beervania
Posts: 53,293
Have you considered Mucinex?
Old 10-30-2012, 09:13 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 6,083
While we're on the topic...

The closest to death I've felt in recent memory is seriously choking on a ball of phlegm. I had taken Mucinex just before going to bed, and woke up to cough--only to find that somehow I had collected a giant ball of gelled phlegm in my throat, and coughed in a way that completely closed my breathing passage, and couldn't breathe for several seconds (it felt like a lot longer, of course). Eventually I was able to swallow it (ugh).

That happen to anyone else? I won't take Mucinex except during the day any more, when I know I'll cough often enough to keep my throat clear.
Old 10-30-2012, 09:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Near Washington, DC
Posts: 9,715
Another problematic point about Guaifenesin is that it can cause mild incontinence. It's still the best expectorant I know of.

For those wondering what the point of an expectorant is - it serves to loosen the phlegm - make it more liquid and easier to move up and out. When the phlegm is really thick, or the bronchial tubes are really inflamed, it can be really painful and difficult to get the nasty stuff out of you.

If you have to cough, you want it to be productive.

To the OP IANAD, but I've had pneumonia, and the main symptom is a non-productive cough. So if you have a dry cough and haven't seen a doctor, please do so. I've tried ignoring pneumonia for too long,and the result was very unpleasant for a very long time. Pleurisy sucks.
Old 10-30-2012, 09:59 PM
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: the western edge.
Posts: 2,380
I cough horribly and extendedly with any upper respiratory illness and have not found expectorants to help much (and suppressants not in the slightest). Mainly, I drink a lot of warmish water and try to get as much rest as possible.
Old 10-30-2012, 10:36 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: In my head
Posts: 12,078
When you have a bad cough, suppressants don't do a goddamn thing.
Old 10-30-2012, 11:25 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Dayton Ohio USA
Posts: 26,937
on a side not on guaifenesin side effects, It causes what I would describe as "looping dreams" where the same action occurs over and over again. It could be something mundane like mowing the lawn which will go on and on and on.

I hate the stuff but will take it if I'm drowning in fluids that won't cough up.
Old 10-30-2012, 11:41 PM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Chicago, Far Northsider
Posts: 7,810
Hah. Yeah, guaifenesin is interesting stuff. I can take it alone, and tend to at night, but I learned the hard way that I can't take it with a decongestant - namely pseudoephedrine - when the room started spinning during a business meeting after I took Mucinex-D for the first time at work. I had to go home soon after. It was like bed-spins and I couldn't read anything, much less concentrate. Glad I didn't have to drive to get home.
Old 10-30-2012, 11:52 PM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 725
When I had pneumonia, my aunt(a nurse of 20 years) recommended that I lay over a sofa foot rest and have someone drum their fists up and down my back. Not hard, but not gently either. I'd cough up big gobs of mucus for a while after that.

I was medicated as well, of course. But that physical therapy definitely had an effect within a minute.

While doctors get all the glory, it is the nurses that are the heavy lifters. Nurses of the straight dope, I know what you do. You are the bass players of the medical world. Keep on rockin, and thanks.

Having pneumonia is terrible. Trying to sit up in bed is like swimming through gelatin.
Old 06-19-2014, 03:59 AM
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 1
Do and doníts of Mucinex DM (Mucinex DM Dosage)

Mucinex DM : Everyone catches a cold once in a while. One of the most common diseases is cough and cold. Generally when you catch a cold you do not see a doctor to get a prescribed drug. Instead you look for over the counter drugs and home based remedies. But if it is a bad cold which results into chest congestion then the home based remedies might not be enough.
Old 06-19-2014, 04:08 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cheshire, UK (since 2006)
Posts: 5,014
If the Op still has the cough two years later, I suspect they need more than a spam weblink...

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