Most parents know the late-night trip to the drug store when they wake up to their child’s coughing. But research shows there might be an even more effective cough remedy than over-the-counter cough syrup already in your kitchen cabinet: honey.
How Effective Is Cough Syrup?
According to pediatrician Jennifer Shu, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatric cough medicine at the drug store is less about medicine and more about marketing.
“If you make it, some people are going to buy it,” she said. “That’s why you see lots of products on shelves that may not be necessary or even safe for kids.”
But how effective are these medicines, really?
The active ingredient in most kids’ cough syrups is a cough suppressant like dextromethorphan or an antihistamine like diphenhydramine.
“What the studies have shown is that – for some reason – in kids they aren’t that effective,” Shu explained.
In addition to not being particularly effective for pediatric populations, these ingredients can have unfortunate side effects, like increasing blood pressure and heart rate or suppressing breathing – neither of which is good for kids.
An Alternative Solution
Alternatively, parents can turn to honey, which has been shown to be at least as effective as OTC cough syrup and have fewer side effects.
“Honey is at least as effective as those many, many products that you see in the drugstore,” said Dr. Bud Wiedermann, infectious disease specialist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C.
One randomized controlled trial in Israel asked parents to give their kids either honey or a placebo syrup that looked and tasted like honey. The parents in the honey group reported improvement in their child’s cough and sleep after just one night, and parents in the control group saw no difference.
Another study found that honey works about as well as dextromethorphan in kids with fewer side effects.
(Note: Honey should only be used for children over the age of one. There is some risk of botulism for younger infants).
While the reason behind honey’s effectiveness is not totally clear, there are some theories. “Honey has some natural antibacterial and antiviral properties,” said Dr. Shu. “It contains hydrogen peroxide, so there is a theory that that’s why it might help fight a cold. But also the thickness of it helps coat the throat and makes it feel more comfortable so you don’t have that dry, ticklish feeling that’s causing your cough.”
For more information about the effects of honey, or to schedule an appointment for your child, call Blue Ridge ENT today!