Cold and flu season is upon us and with these viral illnesses come the inevitable coughing. Coughs often linger after children have substantially recovered and can disrupt sleep for the whole family. The FDA Advisory Board has recommended that over-the-counter cough and cold preparations not be given to children under 6 years. These preparations lack efficacy and carry a risk of overdose or bad side effects. This leaves many parents feeling a sense of helplessness when their young children become sick, but a study conducted at Penn State College of Medicine found that a teaspoon of buckwheat honey at bedtime gave better cough relief and resulted in better sleep than giving honey flavored dextromethorphan (the active ingredient in most over-the-counter cough suppressants) or than giving nothing. The study enrolled 105 children age 2 to 18 years. The parents rated honey as significantly better than dextromethorphan or nothing for providing symptomatic relief of cough. If your child has cough with persistent fever or looks ill, see your pediatrician. Some coughs are due to more serious illness like asthma or pneumonia. Never give honey to a child less than 1 year old.
Dr. Judith Grossberg