Most people know honey as the delicious extra ingredient to add to a peanut butter sandwich. Many have also claimed other helpful properties of honey, including being a good source of antioxidants, having antibacterial and antifungal properties, healing wounds, providing phytonutrients and helping with digestive issues. One of the better-researched benefits of honey is its ability to help soothe a sore throat and cough.
OTC Cough Syrup Doesn’t Always Help
Parents everywhere desperate for a good night’s sleep have tried over-the-counter cough medicine for their children, but studies show that the ingredients in many of these cough syrups are not very effective for kids.
According to pediatrician Jennifer Shu, M.D., spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, cough syrup for kids is more about marketing than medicine. “If you make it, some people are going to buy it. That’s why you see lots of products on shelves that may not be necessary or even safe for kids,” she explained.
Cough medicines usually contain dextromethorphan or an antihistamine, and according to Dr. Shu, studies have shown that these ingredients often aren’t effective for kids. But they do have a host of side effects, including “increasing your blood pressure, making your heart rate go up or suppressing the drive to breathe — and that’s definitely something we don’t want for kids.
Studies Show Honey Can Be an Effective Remedy
Researchers in Israel conducted a randomized controlled trial and asked parents to give their coughing children either honey or a placebo that looked and tasted like honey and found that the honey group reported less coughing and improved sleep after just one night of honey. Parents who administered the placebo saw no difference.
Another study found that honey worked about as well as dextromethorphan but did not have the risks of side effects. (Note: Honey is recommended for children over the age of one. There is a small risk of botulism in infants.)
How Does Honey Help?
The way honey works to quiet a cough is not totally clear, but there are some hypotheses.
“Honey has some natural antibacterial and antiviral properties,” said Dr. Shu. “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.”
For more information about the risks and benefits of treating a cough with honey, schedule an appointment with Hampton Roads ENT.