Honey can help children with coughs due to colds cough less, sleep more, and presumably feel better (along with their parents!) a good news study in Pediatrics reports. As any listener to PodMed knows, these kinds of remedies: low-risk, self-administered, inexpensive, and effective, are always ones we tout, and in view of the fact that right now, my daughters have brought me home a summer cold, I'm going to extrapolate to adults and try it myself for nocturnal cough.
Researchers in Israel, with admitted support from the honey industry, randomized 300 children aged 1 to 5 years with an upper respiratory infection (URI) and nighttime cough to received one of four preparations: eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, labiatae honey, or a similarly sweet concoction from silan dates. Patients who had previously received honey or another cough remedy the previous night were excluded. Parents were given a 10g dose of the preparation randomly assigned to their child with instructions to either give it to the child straight or in a non-caffeinated beverage 30 minutes before sleep.
Parents were contacted on the following day by a trained telephone interviewer to assess the effects of the intervention, with a primary outcome measure of cough frequency compared to the previous night. Other important (!) measures included the child's quality of sleep, the parents' sleep quality, cough severity and the bothersome nature of the cough.
Here's what the study found,"No significant differences were found among the different types of honey; however, each of the honey groups had a better response compared with the silan date extract. For cough frequency, those who received eucalyptus honey had a mean 1.77-point improvement compared with a 1.95-point change for those receiving citrus honey, 1.82 change for those receiving labiatae honey, and a 1.00 point change for those who were treated with silan date extract (placebo group) on the second night." Hmmm. Clearly, honey emerges as the winner. One question that occurs to me right away is what about the natural history of the cough anyway? Would a decrease in frequency and severity have been seen if these children were untreated? That question aside, what is it about honey that may actually improve coughs?
The authors cite abundant research on the antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of honey, a very complex substance with over 180 identified ingredients. Honey varies a great deal relative to the primary floral source the bees have been foraging as well as the season of the year, environmental factors and other variables. Thus standardizing honey is likely impossible, but the good news from this study is that regardless of the type of honey utilized, benefits resulted. We are in agreement with the World Health Organization, then, that honey can be employed by parents to calm their child's cough, with one caveat. Rick and I have reported previously on PodMed about the potential dangers of botulism in infants related to honey ingestion. At this point we feel it is prudent for parents of young infants to give honey a miss. However, additional research may prove us wrong, and we are certainly familiar with the abundant dangers of parents using OTC medications in their children.
Other topics this week include a look at lipid levels in US youth in JAMA, knee injections of hyaluronic acid for arthritis, and retinopathy in blacks with type 2 diabetes, both in Annals of Internal Medicine. Until next week,y'all live well.