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Jason H. Friesen, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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Ask a Doctor: Does honey help a cough?

Posted by on in Allergy
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140303OSM honeyblogpostNothing is worse than having a child who can’t sleep because of a cough due to a respiratory infection. We’ve all been there. But what can be done?

Many cough medicines previously sold over the counter are no longer available for children due to FDA action in 2011. It was not a great loss, as most did not do an adequate job, and some posed risks for very young children. For the weary parent, a study has built upon previous evidence that honey can be a natural, home remedy that can help ease coughing.

Three hundred children ages 1 to 5 participated in the research. Of those children, 75 percent received 10g (about two teaspoons) of honey before going to bed; 25 percent were given a placebo – an extract from dates made to taste like honey, to remove bias.

The result? Parents reported that children who received the honey treatment had fewer symptoms than children who received the placebo.

Exactly how honey suppresses a cough remains a mystery. It is possible that it coats irritated cough receptors or some component of the honey causes the suppression. Regardless, honey has fewer side effects than previously available cough medicines.

Researchers did not study honey and its effect when ingested as part of a warm drink. It’s also important to note that honey, especially raw honey, carries a small risk of botulism and should not be given to infants under 1 year of age.

In Lane County, virus testing shows that influenza hit its peak in mid January, but respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), were on the rise as of mid February. RSV is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children.

Call your doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Worsening cough or cough that produces yellow, green, or gray mucus
  • High fever with ill appearance
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Trouble breathing

Seek immediate medical help if you feel your child is having difficulty breathing or is breathing very rapidly, is lethargic, or if his or her lips or fingernails appear blue. To learn more about the honey study, check out this article published in Pediatrics.

Board certified in pediatrics, as well as allergy and immunology, Dr. Jason Friesen sees patients of all ages. Caring and bright, he is passionate about finding a balance between the seriousness of food allergies and the importance of leading full and normal lives