Honey best for kids' nighttime cough

August 9, 2012

Israeli researchers have confirmed the benefits of a cold remedy that Mary Poppins might recommend. They found that honey is a safe and effective treatment for nighttime cough in children older than 1 year. More >>

Israeli researchers have confirmed the benefits of a cold remedy that Mary Poppins might recommend. They found that honey is a safe and effective treatment for nighttime cough in children older than 1 year.

The US Food and Drug Administration and other professional groups advise against the use of over-the-counter cough medicines for children because of their potential risks and lack of proven efficacy. The World Health Organization recommends honey, a demulcent with antioxidant and antimicrobial effects, as a potential treatment for cough and cold symptoms.

In a double-blind, randomized trial, researchers tested 3 honey products (eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, and labiatae honey) versus placebo (silan date extract, which looks and tastes like honey) in 270 children aged 1 to 5 years with upper respiratory infection (URI)-associated night cough and illness with a duration of 7 days or fewer. Parents administered 10-g doses of their child’s treatment 30 minutes before bedtime on the night of the study and rated cough frequency, severity, and child and parent sleep quality on the night before and on the night of treatment.

Children in all 4 groups showed improvement from the night before treatment to the night of treatment. Honey products, however, were rated higher for symptomatic relief of nighttime cough and child and parental sleep difficulty. No significant differences were found between the honey products. Four children in the honey treatment group and 1 child in the placebo group experienced stomachache, nausea, or vomiting.

Honey may be a preferable treatment for cough and sleep difficulties in children with URIs, the researchers write, but they caution that honey should not be given to children aged younger than 1 year because of the risk of botulism in infants.

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