OTC Cough Medicine vs Prescription: What’s The Difference & What’s Best For Your Symptoms

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If you are suffering with a cold, you may want to take something to help minimize the symptoms. A cough can be one of the most annoying symptoms of a cold, as it can keep you awake at night or bother your family members. If you are looking for cough control medicine, you may be wondering what the best is to take. There are both over the counter and prescription options. Keep in mind that there are differences between the two, and knowing which one to take for your situation is important.


Although both otc and prescription meds contain chemicals that work with your body to suppress symptoms, there are differences between the two.

Doctor prescription requirement

A doctor must write out an order for a specific prescription drug, and this normally happens after an examination and other diagnostic tests. OTC medicine does not require a prescription, and a person can just go into a pharmacy and pick out the medication of his or her choosing.

Intention for use

Prescription drugs are meant to be taken only by the person the doctor prescribes it for and it should not be shared. Over the counter meds can be used by more than the individual who purchases it.

Diagnosis requirements

A prescription medicine requires a diagnosis to determine which medicine is the best option. For otc meds, the individual can self-diagnose based on symptoms and other signs.


Prescriptions are generally stronger and more potent than over the counter drugs. Because of this, prescription medication is used for more serious illnesses, although it also treats minor ones. OTC meds only treat minor symptoms and illnesses.


Both prescription and otc drugs come with side effects, and some can be serious. They both may cause adverse medical interactions when taken with other medication. They may both be harmful if not used correctly.

Choose the Best One for Your Symptoms

In general, your symptoms are a good guide for deciding whether to take an otc or prescription medicine for your cough. For a mild and intermittent cough, an otc remedy is generally enough. However, if your coughing is constant and chronic, a stronger prescription may be more effective. If there is wheezing along with the cough, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler as well.

Most doctors favor a conservative approach and will recommend an OTC option first, and if that does not help, will then prescribe a stronger medication. For a more homeopathic option, brillia health cough control helps reduce the intensity and frequency of a cough without the harmful chemicals found in other medications.


For those who want to stay away from medications due to side effects, there are other options. Try brillia homeopathic cold medicine for adults, or try a home remedy. A humidifier helps keep the air moist, which helps with a dry cough. Honey and hot peppermint tea have both been shown to reduce coughing. Elderberry syrup is a good natural cough syrup. There are also herbal cough drops, made with lemon, thyme, eucalyptus, elderberry or honey, which provide symptom relief like medicinal cough drops but without the harmful chemicals.