Health News

Honey works best to calm kids' coughs, study finds

CHICAGO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - A spoonful of buckwheat honey quells a child’s nighttime chest cold coughing better than the most common cough suppressant in nonprescription medicines, researchers said on Monday.

“Honey may be a preferable treatment for the cough and sleep difficulty associated with childhood upper respiratory tract infection,” a team of investigators from Pennsylvania State University said.

Their study, paid for by the National Honey Board, an industry-funded U.S. Agriculture Department agency, compared honey to dextromethorphan -- or DM -- the most common cough suppressant in over-the-counter remedies.

Honey is not recommended for children under the age of one. Buckwheat honey is a dark variety that tends to have more compounds associated with honey’s antioxidant properties, the researchers said. In addition, they said honey can sooth the throat and thus help control coughing.

The report said that neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the American College of Chest Physician backs the use of DM for childhood cough.

In addition the substance has been implicated in drug abuse among teenagers who use cough medicine to get high.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, comes just weeks after a government advisory panel recommended that many nonprescription cough and cold medicines in use for decades should not be given to children under 6 until their efficacy can be proven.

That move came after a group of pediatricians and public health officials petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to restrict sales for children younger than 6 because of reports of deaths, seizures, hallucinations and other problems.

Makers have said the products are safe and effective, when given as directed, to children aged 2 and older.

The new study involved 105 youngsters age 2 to 18 who had been battling upper respiratory tract infections for seven days or less. Some were given 10 milliliters -- about one tablespoon

-- of buckwheat honey 30 minutes before bedtime, others got DM -- of buckwheat honey 30 minutes before bedtime, others got DM and others nothing at all.

Honey was found to make the best improvements in cough control and sleep followed by DM, while doing nothing showed the least improvement.

“Parents rated honey most favorably for symptomatic relief of their children’s nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty,” the study concluded.

“While our findings and the absence of contemporary studies supporting the use of DM continue to question its effectiveness for the treatment of cough associated with upper respiratory tract infections, we have now provided evidence supporting honey, which is generally regarded as safe for children older than 1 year, as an alternative,” the authors said.

(Editing by Andrew Stern and Eric Walsh)

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