Honey eases children’s coughs, study shows

August 27, 2012
Kids with colds
Honey seems to ease nighttime coughs

THE QUESTION Nighttime coughing frequently plagues children who have a cold, not only causing discomfort but disrupting their sleep and that of other family members, too. Might a dose of honey relieve the coughing?

THIS STUDY involved 300 children, 1 to 5 years old, who were coughing at night because of an upper-respiratory-tract infection that had been present about three days, on average; none of the children had signs of asthma or pneumonia. The children were randomly assigned to be given 10 milligrams of honey (one of three types) or a placebo (a date extract) 30 minutes before bedtime. Comparing the night the children took honey or the placebo with the previous night, coughing was less frequent and less severe, on average, for all the children, whether they got honey or the placebo. Their sleep improved, too, as did their parents’. However, as measured on a 20-point scale that considered all symptoms, improvement was greater among children who had taken honey. They showed a 10-point gain, vs. a six-point improvement for those in the placebo group.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Young children with an upper-respiratory-tract infection, which often includes a runny rose, fever, sore throat and a headache as well as coughing. Parents sometimes try home remedies and herbal preparations to ease symptoms because over-the-counter cough and cold medications can pose serious dangers for young children. The Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends that those over-the-counter products never be given to children younger than 2 years.

CAVEATS The data came from parents’ responses on questionnaires and in phone interviews. Assessments and comparisons were done just once. Because honey can contain the bacteria that cause botulism, it should not be given to infants younger than 1 year. Also, honey should be given only for short spurts because it can contribute to the development of cavities.

FIND THIS STUDY September issue of Pediatrics (www.pediatrics.org).


Honey may ease kid’s nighttime coughs. (bigstock)

LEARN MORE ABOUT symptoms of upper-respiratory-tract infection in children at www.kidshealth.org. Learn about children’s coughs at www.aaaai.org (search for “cough”).

Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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