It is FINALLY March which often is the last month that our pediatric office is inundated with illness. I can now honestly tell exhausted parents (and our nurses) that this could possibly be their child's last cold of the 2013-2014 winter season. I would still keep my fingers crossed as well.
But, with that being said I still hear coughs throughout the exam rooms and the beeping of the pulse oximeter measuring a child's oxygenation. These are sounds I rarely hear once we hit April-May. Parents continue to be concerned about their child's cough and parent's and children alike are tired.... often due to sleep disruption due to coughing.
While numerous remedies to suppress nightime cough have been tried, most of the studies done in children ( over 1 year of age) showed no benefit with either dextromethorphan (found in many OTC cough and cold preparations) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl). On the other hand, there have been 3 randomized controlled trials showing the effectiveness of honey on reducing nighttime coughing brought on by an upper respiratory infection (also known as a cold.)
Honey has been used for a variety of medicinal uses for thousands of years, but like many other things (Power Rangers, Hello Kitty, Rocky and Bullwinkle), the use of honey is making a comeback!! While different types of honey have been tried (the first study used Buckwheat honey, others have tried eucalyptus and citrus honey,) the type of honey used has not been found to be significant. There has yet to be a study done using the traditional clove honey we all have in our pantries.
The mechanism for how the honey works to suppress the cough is still unclear. Some feel it is the antioxidant effect of honey, as well as its antimicrobial effects. Others postulate that the sweet taste may even reduce the central sensory nerves urge to cough. Whatever the mechanism, most parents and children don't care if they just can stop coughing at night!
Honey may safely be used in children OVER the age of 1 year. The typical dose is 1/2 tsp for children between 1-5 years, 1 tsp for 6-11 years and 2 tsp for older children.
Give it a try on those last hacking coughs this month....spring is just around the corner.