Honey, nature's cure for coughs

December 19, 2007 8:11:12 PM PST
If you have coughing children in your house, you might want to try something different to treat them. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned against giving children commercial cough preparations. New research shows a natural food may provide relief for your sick child.

If you child has a persistent cough, you might try a little honey to help get a good night's sleep.

Three year old Shaun is suffering from a persistent cold with coughing for around three days. 14 month old Jeremiah also has a pesky cough that worries his mom. In fact, coughing is a common cause of out-patients visits to doctors. But at children's hospital Oakland, pediatricians say, coughing is actually good for the body.

"Coughs are good, coughs are very good. They help children get over colds and viruses faster. If you suppress the cough, they're going to take a longer time to get better," says Gena Lewis M.D., Children's Hospital Oakland Pediatrician

In fact, most drugs don't work. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended against using over-the-counter cough preparations for children.

A typical bottle of cough medicine contains dextromethorphan - a cough suppressant - as well as an expectorant to help you cough - so they cancel each other out. Studies have shown no real benefit. In fact, they can be dangerous for children.

"Our recommendation is no cough medicine is good cough medicine," says Lewis.

Pediatricians like Dr. Dayna Long are now recommending honey to treat children's coughs because of a new study.

Penn State researchers gave some children no treatment, some honey-flavored dextromethorphan cough syrup, and the rest, a spoonful of buckwheat honey. Researchers found the honey was most effective in reducing cough and helping children sleep.

"It soothes and coats the throat and makes the child feel a little bit better," says Lewis.

The study used buckwheat honey, which can be a bit difficult to find in the Bay Area.

"It really it doesn't matter what kind of honey is used. Any kind of honey would be just fine," says Lewis.

However, there are important warnings. Honey cannot be given to infants under the age of one, or to diabetic children. However, for most kids with coughs, a spoonful of honey before bed time may help.

"Just try it and see if it works for you," says Dayna Long, M.D.

The study was sponsored by the Honey Board, but it supports other research on honey soothing coughs.

Do not give honey to diabetics or children under one year old. DOCTORS PROFILED:

Gena Lewis, M.D.
Elio Gizzi, M.D.
Dayna Long, M.D.

Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland
747 Fifty Second Street Oakland, CA 94609


Diana Yee
Media Relations Specialist
Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland
(510) 428-3120 (office)

Click here to read the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine article.

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