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What is a Cough Drop?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

A cough drop is a medicated candy, also called a lozenge, designed to soothe throat irritation such as that caused by a cough or cold. Most cough drops include sugar, menthol, flavors and colors. Sugar free varieties have an artificial sweeter added and contain no sugar so that diabetics may have them. There are many popular cough drop brands in the United States including Halls®, Fisherman's Friend®, Vicks®, Cepacol® and Ricola®.

Ricola® is a Swiss brand of cough drop that includes herbal extracts with the menthol in their different flavors of cough drops. Cepacol® cough drops include the numbing analgesic, benzocaine, with menthol. The Cepacol® brand is available in a throat spray as well.

Vicks® cough drops are manufactured by Procter and Gamble. These triangular-shaped drops are sold in boxes of 20 and are available in cherry or menthol flavors. According to the information on the box, Vicks® cough drops are a "cough suppressant/oral anesthetic." The cherry flavor contains 1.7 mg of menthol per drop, while the menthol flavor has 3.3 mg of menthol per drop.

Fisherman's Friend® cough drops began with a liquid form first made by pharmacist James Lofthouse in 1865 for fisherman working the Icelandic waters. The solid candy form was created much later by Lofthouse of Fleetwood, Lancashire, England and is now available in many different flavors in over 100 countries. Menthol and eucalyptus are featured in Fisherman's Friend cough drops and the drops are available in Strong, Extra Strong and Super Strong. The sugar-free version of the Fisherman's Friend® cough drop is available in flavors such as lemon, mint and cherry.

Halls® cough drops are manufactured by Cadbury-Schweppes. The Halls® brand of cough drop dates back to the 1930s. The first cough drop, Halls® Mentho-Lyptus, was invented by the British company, Halls Brothers. These cough drops were available in the United States by the 1950s. Like Vicks®, the Halls® label also identifies the product as a "cough suppressant/oral anesthetic." The Halls® Plus cough drop, released in 1990, has a syrup center. Sugar Free Halls® were introduced in 1994 and many more Halls® cough drop variations followed such as the Halls® Defense Vitamin C cough drop in 1999 and a new flavor, Sugar Free Kiwi-Apple in 2006.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Apr 07, 2014

@stoneMason-- Yea, it's very dangerous to sleep with cough drops in the mouth. You could have choked. It sounds like you needed something stronger like throat lozenges. They are also medicated candies but they contain anesthetic medication which numbs the throat. So lozenges are more suitable for severe sore throat and coughing because they provide more pain relief and the effects last longer.

We use both cough drops and lozenges at my home, depending on how bad our symptoms are. But we only buy sugar free ones. My mom is a diabetic and the rest of us are worried about cavities, so we stick to sugar free cough drops.

By fify — On Apr 07, 2014

@stoneMason-- Which herbal cough drop flavors have you tried? There are quite a few flavor options now and I think that you will find something that you like. I use herbal cough drops and the flavor I like is herbal mint with eucalyptus. It tastes quite good. Before I switched to these, I was using the honey flavored non-herbal cough drops.

By stoneMason — On Apr 06, 2014

I've tried herbal cough drops a few times but I have not liked them. They do taste like herbs and I don't think that they are as effective as menthol cough drops. My favorite cough drops are the cherry flavored menthol ones. This type tastes very good, the menthol is not overwhelming, but it works great.

I was very sick a few years ago, I had a severe upper respiratory infection and a terrible hacking cough. I couldn't sleep at night from coughing so I ended up sucking on cherry cough drops throughout the night so that I could get some sleep. I don't recommend this to anyone though because it's dangerous and I can't deny that I was worried about choking on the cough drop in my sleep. I was just so miserable from all the coughing that I did something dangerous like that.

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