Here, Honey, Take Honey for Your Cough

Honey for coughs is an effective treatment for children with upper respiratory infection

(RxWiki News) Every once in a while, an old wives' tale is actually based in medicine. Such is the case with giving children honey to control a nighttime cough.

A recent study found that giving your child honey — as long as they're older than 1 year old — can help control a cough from an upper respiratory infection.

"Ask your pediatrician about night-time coughs."

The study, led by Herman Avner Cohen, MD, of Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel, looked at how effective three different types of honey were for preventing a child's cough at night.

The researchers compared eucalyptus honey, citrus honey and labiatae honey against a "fake" honey tested in a group of young children.

The study involved 270 children aged 1 to 5 who had upper respiratory tract infections with a nighttime cough for a week or less.

The children's parents filled out a survey the day before the study when their child had a nighttime cough but had not taken any medication.

Then the kids were randomly put into four groups, and each received 10 g of one of the three honeys or the fake honey 30 minutes before bedtime. The fake honey was actually an extract from a type of date.

Then the parents filled out a survey after the children had gone to sleep with the honey. They were asked how frequently their child coughed, how bad the cough was, how much it appeared to bother their child and how well the child and the parents slept.

The coughing improved in all four groups of children, but it improved the most in the three groups given the honeys.

The parents whose kids took honey rated their child's sleep quality and cough improvement higher than the parents whose kids had the date extract.

"No significant differences were found among the different types of honey," the authors wrote. "However, each of the honey groups had a better response compared with the silan date extract."

All the children in the study were at least 1 year old, and children under 1 should never eat honey.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, honey can contain the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism. Botulism is a serious illness which can cause paralysis or death. It is safe to give honey to children over 1 year old.

The study was published August 6 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by a grant from the Israel Ambulatory Pediatric Association, Materna Infant Nutrition Research Institute and the Honey Board of Israel. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 22, 2012