Coughing is the reason for nearly 20 million outpatient visits per year in the US and most commonly occurs in conjunction with an upper respiratory infection.
It is particularly bothersome at night as it disrupts sleep. Despite the common occurrence of upper respiratory tract infections and cough there appears to be confusion among consumers about the most effective therapy for this annoying symptom.
Consumers spend billions of dollars per year on over-the-counter cough medications. Dextromethorphan (DM) is the most common medicine for the treatment of cough in children, but neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the American College of Chest Physicians supports the use of this medication.
Research has shown that neither DM nor diphenhydramine is superior to placebo for outcomes related to cough and sleep quality. Moreover, the Center for Disease Control estimates that each year cough and cold medicines send about 7,000 children to hospital emergency rooms.
Standard doses of DM are associated with numerous serious adverse events such as muscle contractions and severe allergic reactions. Higher doses are associated with dependence, psychosis, diabetes, hallucinations, neuropathy and death.
Further, DM is increasingly abused as a recreational drug, particularly by adolescents.
Based on medical research, honey is a safer, more effective choice for children with cough. In two clinical trials, honey was more effective than DM or placebo.
An international team of researchers examined the effects of two teaspoons of honey compared to placebo in children with upper respiratory infections. The honey improved nocturnal cough and difficulty sleeping better than placebo. Research from Pennsylvania State University supports these findings.
In a randomized clinical trial, two teaspoons of buckwheat honey provided clinically important symptomatic relief for a child’s nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty due to upper respiratory tract infection compared to DM.
The World Health Organization has recommended honey as a treatment for cough and cold symptoms as well. Honey is known to decrease inflammation and have antimicrobial effects and is generally recognized as safe, except for use in children younger than one year in age.
Considering the risks and benefits, honey provides the most favorable symptomatic relief for a child’s nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty due to upper respiratory infection.
Dr. Hari Dass Khalsa is a chiropractor with offices located in the Hawthorne District. Call 503.238.1032 for more information.
Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a healthcare professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.