With so many cough and cold remedies now off limits to babies and toddlers, it's a relief to know that when it comes to nighttime cough relief, Mother Nature has you covered. A new study says that plain old honey can provide soothing comfort for kids more than 1 year old.
Conducted in Israel, the study involved 300 kids, age 1 to 5, who were all sick with a typical cold/cough combination. Half an hour before bedtime, one group of parents gave their child 10 grams of honey (about 2 teaspoons); another group gave the child a syrup made from dates that was also sweet but honey-free.
As parent surveys indicated, kids' cough frequency and severity and sleep problems improved in both groups, but tots who took honey benefitted the most. As a bonus, parents also said they got a better night's sleep, just like their kids.
The reason behind the overnight success? "There's something about having a thick, viscous, sweet liquid that provides some sort of relief," Dr. Ian Paul, a pediatrician from Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, tells Fox News. Sweet liquid also causes salivation, Dr. Paul explains, which can thin mucus and lubricate the upper airway.
Honey is also a rich source of antioxidants, which may play a role in fighting whatever infection is causing the cold symptoms. Researchers in the study noted that different types of honey contain different antioxidants—including vitamin C and flavanoids—and that darker honey tends to have more.
To be clear, honey is still not for babies less than a year old due to the risk for botulism poisoning. But for coughing and hacking kids over 1, honey may be the sweet relief parents have been looking for.
What do moms think? "I think it's funny that a folk remedy like giving a kid honey when he has a cough is being viewed as ground-breaking science," says Jennifer Wilson, a mom of three from Terre Haute, Indiana. "My kids always get honey when they have a cough. I don't need scientists to tell me what I already know works like a charm!"