My grandmother used to say a little honey was the best thing to stop a cough. A new study, published in the September issue of Pediatrics confirms what mothers and grandmothers have been saying for decades… a couple of teaspoons of honey soothes the throat, stops the coughing and helps you sleep better.
It’s tough for parents to find an over-the-counter solution to treat colds and coughs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines don't work for children younger than 6 years and may pose risks. The FDA takes a similar stance.
In the new study, 270 children aged 1 to 5 with nighttime cough due to simple colds received one of three types of honey or a non-honey liquid of similar taste and consistency 30 minutes before bedtime. Parents completed questionnaires about their child's cough and sleep on the night before the study began and then again the night after their kids were treated.
Children received either 2 teaspoons of eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, Labiatae honey, or similar-tasting silan date extract 30 minutes before bed. All kids did better the second night of the study, including those given the date extract. But children who received honey coughed less frequently, less severely, and were less likely to lose sleep due to the cough when compared to those who didn't get honey.
The study was co-funded by the Honey Board of Israel.
Not only were the children able to sleep better, parents were able to sleep through the night as well. That’s a huge relief especially for parents who have to be at the office or on the job site the next day.
Mild coughing isn’t always a bad thing: it helps clear mucus from the airway. But an acute cough can be relentless - causing vomiting and gasping for air.
Honey can be part of a supportive care regimen for children with colds, says Alan Rosenbloom, MD. He is a pediatrician in private practice in Baldwin, N.Y.
There are a few caveats, he says. Honey is not appropriate for children younger than 1 because they are at risk for infant botulism. "Never give honey to a child under the age of 1."
Skip the honey, and call your pediatrician if your child also has:
- Prolonged, worsening cough
- Cold symptoms that last longer than two weeks
If your child has a cold, Rosenbloom suggests a couple of other ways you can help them be more comfortable. Try saline drops or nasal spray, a humidifier in the bedroom to keep the air moist, and propping up the child's head during sleep to stop the postnasal drip that can trigger coughing.
If you want to give honey a try, there’s no need for a “special” kind of honey – any honey will do. It may be the best choice in the first few days of a cold – less coughing, better sleep, safer and more effective than OTC medications.
Looks like grandma was right—as always.