When we were kids, our parents would give us cough syrup to help us sleep through the night if we were sick. Now, experts are advising against this practice and recommending the use of a non-traditional ingredient – honey.
The Dangers of Cough Medicine
Pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Jennifer Shu, says that cough syrup designed for children is not good medicine, it is just marketing.
Kids cough syrups contain a cough suppressant (such as dextromethorphan) or an antihistamine (such as diphenhydramine), and research has shown that these types of medications are not effective in kids. There are, however, some serious side effects including an increase in blood pressure and heart rate as well as suppressed breathing.
The Benefits of Honey
According to Dr. Bud Wiedermann, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C., “Honey is at least as effective as those many, many products that you see in the drugstore.” It is important to note that honey should only be ingested by children older than one, as children under one are at risk of botulism.
A 2012 randomized controlled study conducted in Israel compared coughing children given honey and a date syrup placebo. The researchers found that the children in the honey group saw their coughs and sleep improve after one night of treatment, while those taking the date syrup saw no improvement.
Shu is quick to confirm that we do not know exactly why honey works as a cough suppressant. “Honey has some natural antibacterial and antiviral properties,” she explained. “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.”
Additional Cough Treatments
Besides honey, there are other home remedies to sooth your child’s cough and help them get some sleep, including:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Propping them up on a pillow
- Using a humidifier
- Rubbing menthol chest cream
If your child has a fever or labored breathing, it is time to seek medical attention.
To learn more, contact the experts at Texas ENT & Allergy today.