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Can Honey Help Soothe a Cough?

Is honey a better choice than cough medicine for your child's symptoms? Learn what really soothes a cough.

A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but some people say honey works even better for treating a cough.

Honey: a sweet solution? But does honey really ease a cough? The experts aren't so sure.

A 2007 study compared honey to a common over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressant (dextromethorphan)or no treatment at all.

Kids who were 2 to 5 years of age were given a half teaspoon of dark buckwheat honey before bedtime. Children 6 to 11 took a full teaspoon. Older kids received two teaspoons. The parents completed a survey. Of the three treatment groups, parents felt that honey was the most effective for soothing coughs and promoting better sleep.

But in 2010, another group of experts reviewed that study here They didn't find honey to be so effective. They found that:

   Honey did work better than no treatment on how much children coughed, how much they were bothered by the cough, and how well they slept. But it really did not decrease how bad the cough actually was.
   Honey did not work any better than dextromethorphan on easing a cough's severity or frequency, or on how well the child slept.

The reviewers noted that this was just one small study. This means that additional studies are needed to prove if honey is an effective cough remedy for children.

If you choose to use honey Know that it is not clear how honey helps coughs. One leading theory is that it soothes the throat and stimulates saliva, which calms the coughing reflex.

Honey also has some health benefits:

   It is a source of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E. The darker the honey, the more nutrients it has.
   It contains extra minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, iron, and phosphate.

One warning: Never give honey to infants younger than 12 months of age. Honey can contain botulism spores that can be deadly to infants. However, it is safe for children 12 months of age or older.

Tried-and-true cough remedies If your child has a slight cough, it's likely nothing to worry about. Childhood coughs are common and they are most often caused by viral infections. They tend to go away within 1 to 2 weeks.

Your child doesn't usually need any treatment for a cough caused by a virus. It will just go away on its own in time. But these remedies may help ease your child's cough and make him or her more comfortable:

   Cough drops or hard candy can help a dry, tickling cough. Do not give cough drops or hard candy to kids younger than 5 because they can cause choking.
   A vaporizer or a steamy shower makes moisture build up in the air. This can relieve a dry throat.
   Fluids. Drinking enough liquids will help thin the mucus in the throat. This will make it easier to cough up.
   Medicine. But check with the doctor before giving any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
       Ask if a cough suppressant like dextromethorphan may help.
       Or ask if a mucus-thinning agent, such as guaifenesin, can help ease the cough.

Ask your doctor what to watch out for if your child has a cough or when you might need to get emergency help.