A Cough Cure For Kids? Try Honey : Shots - Health News For parents desperate to calm a kid's hacking cough, so the whole family can get some sleep, turns out there's evidence that a common kitchen ingredient works better than OTC medicine.
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For Kid's Coughs, Swap The Over-The-Counter Syrups For Honey

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For Kid's Coughs, Swap The Over-The-Counter Syrups For Honey

For Kid's Coughs, Swap The Over-The-Counter Syrups For Honey

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Parents can find themselves desperate and confused about what to do when a particularly young kid has a bad cough. NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin reports that for kids older than 1, the best thing might already be sitting in your kitchen cupboard.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: If you don't have little kids, or it's been a while, let me just break down for you why coughs can be a problem, like a truly miserable, all-caps problem. Your kid's coughing...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD COUGHING)

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: ...It's almost always worse at night.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD COUGHING)

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Then they start crying because they can't sleep with all the coughing, and they're exhausted.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD COUGHING, CRYING)

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: That means they don't sleep. You don't sleep. No one in the house sleeps. And this can go on for a week or longer. So what do you do? You might reasonably go to the pharmacy.

I am in the drugstore here. There are over two dozen different bottles of cough syrup for kids here. And they say reassuring things, like relieves nasal congestion and cures cough, nighttime relief.

Dr. Jennifer Shu says, don't buy it. She's a pediatrician in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. And she says all of these promises are just marketing.

JENNIFER SHU: If you make it, some people are going to buy it. And so that's why you see lots of products on shelves that may not be necessary or even safe for kids.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She says there's research that for kids, the drugs commonly in these cough syrups do more harm than good.

SHU: What we've found out in studies is that for some reason in kids, a lot of the over-the-counter cough medicines aren't that effective. So why take a chance and risk some of the serious side effects?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Like possibly increasing blood pressure, making your heart rate go up or suppressing the drive to breathe. So what can you, the desperate, sleep-starved parent of a coughing kid, do?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD COUGHING)

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: There are a couple of things, the first of which is quite delicious.

BUD WIEDERMANN: Honey is at least as effective as those many, many products that you see in the drugstore.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: That's Dr. Bud Wiedermann of Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. He says several randomized controlled trials have found that honey works as well as cough medicine without those potential side effects. And honey works better than a placebo or no treatment. This is only for kids older than 1 years old because of the risk of botulism for infants. How does honey work for a cough? Shu says it's not totally clear, but there are some theories.

SHU: Honey has some natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. But also, the thickness of it helps coat the throat, so you don't have that dry, ticklish feeling that's causing your cough.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Shu and Wiedermann both also suggest some other tried and true home remedies - lots of fluids, propping the kid up on a pillow, humidifiers, menthol chest rubs. If your little one has a fever or labored breathing, you might need medical attention. Otherwise, Shu says, just buckle in, and try to ride it out the best you can.

SHU: Patience, young grasshopper. It'll feel like it's lasting forever, but it will go away.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She says kids can average one cold a month in the winter, and each one can last two weeks or longer. So hang in there. Spring will be here eventually. Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ACORN'S "RETURN TO BLACKNESS (FOR GB)")

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