Cough and cold medicines active ingredients

While 'cough and cold' medicines may relieve the symptoms of a cough or cold, there are few good-quality clinical trials proving their effectiveness, particularly in children.

Cough and cold medicines active ingredients include:

  • antihistamines (e.g. chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, triprolidine, brompheniramine, dexchlorpheniramine, doxylamine, pheniramine, promethazine)
  • decongestants (e.g. pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, oxymetazoline, oxylometazoline)
  • paracetamol.

Know the active ingredient

Cough and cold medicines may have more than one active ingredient and be available under different brand names. The active ingredient is the chemical in a medicine that makes it work. The medicine label should tell you the active ingredient and the brand name.

Find out more about cough and cold medicines

Before using any medicine, check with a doctor or pharmacist about the safest one for you or your child. Always read the information on the label and the consumer medicine information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine. CMI leaflets are available for most prescription and many non-prescription medicines. Download the CMI for your medicine.