One of the main reasons parents seek care at my office is cough. It sounds bad, keeps parents awake and often keeps children awake too.
In the olden days (like 5 years ago) we used to ply kids with cough medicines at night in the hope of relieving the cough and getting some sleep. To be honest, I was never all that convinced the medicines helped all that much but they did at least give parents something to do. Perhaps that alone made parents feel that the medicines helped.
When studied formally, these over-the-counter cough and cold medicines were not only found to be ineffective at decreasing symptoms but were found to have a significant side effect profile including agitation and irritability and (ironically) sleeplessness. As a result, several years ago these products were removed from the shelves for young children and parents were left with nothing but their loving arms and some saline spray to help soothe their coughing children.
Honey had been touted as a cough remedy for children for years and has been studied with fair results. In fact, most studies have shown that children given undiluted honey had less severe coughs at night compared to children given nothing, and indeed another study published recently reinforced this finding.
Honey is not a cure-all, but the children who were given honey had fewer coughing episodes and the episodes were less severe than those given nothing. All in all I will continue to suggest honey as a strategy and as long as the honey is pasteurized, infants under a year of age can be given it too. You can’t overdose honey, of course, so start with a couple of teaspoons because it is a mechanical coating of the back of the throat that seems to be the way it helps.