One of the single biggest complaints for children in the doctor's office is a cough. A new study by a Penn State College of Medicine research team found that honey may offer parents an effective and safer alternative than those over-the-counter children's cough medicines, which include chemicals that have not proven their effectiveness.
This study, reported in Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, found that a small dose of buckwheat honey given before bedtime provided a better relief for nighttime cough and sleep difficulty in children than dextromethorphan (DM), a cough suppressant found in many over-the-counter cold medications. It also provided a better night sleep than no treatment at all.
Honey did a better job reducing the severity, frequency and bothersome nature of nighttime cough from upper respiratory infection than DM as well. Honey also showed a positive effect on the sleep quality of both the coughing child and the child's parents. DM was not significantly better at alleviating symptoms than no treatment.
It is absolutely amazing that we could have had these products approved and on the market for as long as they have been since they show no clinical effectiveness at all.
An FDA advisory board recently recommended that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines not be given to children less than 6 years old because of their lack of effectiveness and potential for side effects. In fact, a previous study published in 2004 from Penn State showed that neither DM nor diphenhydramine, another common component of cold medications, performed better than a placebo at reducing nighttime cough or improving sleep quality.
Honey has been used for centuries in some cultures to treat upper respiratory infection symptoms like cough, and is considered to be safe for children over 12 months old. Honey has well-established antioxidant and antimicrobial effects, which could explain its contributions to wound healing. Honey also soothes on contact, which may help explain its effect on cough as suggested by the World Health Organization.
[Please note that honey is not for children younger than 2 years old]