Skip to main content

Understanding Coughs

Understanding Coughs

A Natural Reflex

Coughing is your body’s way of protecting itself. It essentially is a reflex that keeps your airways clear from mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke. Certain Robitussin products help your body cough more effectively and bring your cough under control. How? By using two key ingredients:

  • An expectorant to loosen and thin mucus so it can be more readily discharged.
  • A cough suppressant to control your cough reflex.

Culprit: Mucus

One of the main coughing culprits is mucus. Normally, mucus in the body is thin and fluid. It protects and moistens the lining of body’s organs such as the lungs and intestines, and also helps remove bacteria.1 But when you get sick, your body often produces more mucus, which can get thick and stuck in your lungs and airways.1 This makes it hard to breathe and easy to get infections. The expectorants in certain Robitussin formulas can thin mucus and loosen it, making it easier for your body to cough it up.

Calm the Cough

Certain Robitussin formulas also contain cough suppressants to keep the cough reflex under control. Prolonged coughing can cause unpleasant side effects, such as chest pain, difficulty sleeping and lightheadedness.2 Cough suppressants also aid what’s known as “dry cough,” or “unproductive cough,” where no mucus is produced. A dry, hacking cough may develop toward the end of a cold or after exposure to an irritant such as dust or smoke.3 See the Robitussin formulas below to find one that’s right for you. Always read and follow label directions. Consult your doctor with any questions.

Formulas with Cough Suppressant:

Formulas with Expectorant and Cough Suppressant:



  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “Rhinitis and Sinusitis.”
  2. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a program of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “What is Cough?”
  3. WebMD, “Coughs Topic Overview.”