Honey Treats Coughs Better Than Drugs

"This explains the popularity of the so-called 'cough drops' that we all were given as children," he says, adding that the cough syrups serve a similar purpose: they lubricate the throat, thus reducing irritation. "The immediate relief that one experiences when swallowing that dose of cough syrup is attributable to the viscous vehicle and not the medicine itself."

Other pediatricians warn that there is a minimum age when honey is appropriate. Only children 2 and older participated in the study.

"Pediatricians do not recommend using honey in any situation -- whether it be to eat or to relieve a cough in children younger than 1 because of the risk of botulism," says Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in private practice in Austin, Texas, explaining that botulism spores in honey can harm infants.

Brown says that even if honey is eventually shown to have little effectiveness, it certainly will not hurt -- and it can make parents feel as if they're doing something.

"It's benign, and as opposed to standard cough medicine, it tastes good," she says. "But the authors admit that the improvement in symptoms may simply be attributable to the length of time a child has symptoms of cough and that the common cold will improve over time anyway."

Doering says that since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent recommendation that cough and cold medicines not be given to children under 6 years old, this new research may calm the nerves of parents who wonder what to give their children.

"I believe that recommending honey as a cough medicine has merits. It provides a safe option to using chemical based options," he says, adding that honey is part of a trend of recommending more commonplace traditional remedies for ailments.

"We are in an age of newfound caution when it comes to dosing our kids for minor illnesses," says Doering. "Personally, as a pharmacist, I always feel uncomfortable recommending a chemical solution to every ill that comes along."

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