A spoonful of honey IS the medicine

My daughter will tell you that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (She hears that a lot, but she doesn't practice the method.)

Tastes good, soothes a cough: Scientists validated the home remedy, giving solace to parents of kids with coughs everywhere.
Tastes good, soothes a cough: Scientists validated the home remedy, giving solace to parents of kids with coughs everywhere.Courtesy biskuit

Turns out you can also soothe a cough with honey. That's good news to parents of kids under 6, since the FDA recently pulled most over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for kids in that age group off the shelves.

My family's always used honey to help soothe a cold, but I always figured it was a comfort measure more than anything else. (You know: colds are caused by viruses, and there's not much you can do to treat a virus. You just have to let it run its course, and try to make yourself feel better in the meantime. At our house, that means honey in warm milk for the small people, and honey in tea for the big people.)

A small clinical trial, though, proves the home remedy. Researchers compared the effect of a dose of buckwheat honey against a dose of dextromethorphan (a common OTC cough medicine) or no treatment at all. Pennsylvania State University researcher Dr. Ian M. Paul, one of the study's authors, told Reuters Health,

"The results were so strong that we were able to say clearly that honey was better than no treatment and dextromethorphan was not."

Kids who took the honey had the greatest reduction in cough frequency and the most improved sleep. (As did their parents--good news for me!)

Why does honey work? Scientists aren't sure, but it's soothing to the throat, rich in antioxidants, and has antimicrobial properties.

So how much honey should you give a child? The researchers used a dose identical to that recommended for cough syrups: half a teaspoon for two- to five-year-olds, a teaspoon for six- to eleven-year-olds, and two teaspoons for children twelve and older.

It isn't all good news, though. Some parents are still out of luck because honey is an absolute no-no for children under 1 year old. (It could cause a kind of food poisoning called botulism.)

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