3.9 Cough preparations

Drugs for cough not listed here:

NHS England (NHSE) has published new prescribing guidance for various common conditions for which over-the-counter (OTC) items should not be routinely prescribed in primary care (quick reference guide). These conditions include coughs, colds, and nasal congestion.

Many cough and cold treatments are cheap to buy and are readily available OTC along with advice from pharmacies. Some self-care medicines are available from shops and supermarkets. Please click here for further information, exceptions, and a patient leaflet.

Cough suppression may be useful in specific circumstances in patients over 6 years of age (e.g. if sleep is disturbed), but can cause sputum retention which may be harmful in patients with chronic bronchitis and bronchiectasis.

Simple linctus
  • Linctus (£1.03 = 200ml)


  • Adult and child over 12 years 5ml 3–4 times daily


  1. Simple linctus is available to be purchased over the counter.
  2. The BNF recommends that cough preparations should be avoided but recognises that simple linctus has the advantage of being harmless and inexpensive.


Home > Formulary > Chapters > 3. Respiratory > 3.9 Cough preparations


  • First line
  • Second line
  • Specialist
  • Hospital