It turns out that honey soothes a child’s cough better than over-the-counter cough medicines. This article was from MedPage, and backs up a recent article that appeared in the NY Times. I no longer have the original link, so I will reprint the article here in its entirety.
Rethinking Remedies for Colds and Coughs
A panel of safety experts at the Food and Drug Administration has proposed
banning over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for kids under age 6.
There’s growing concern about the health risks and little evidence that the
remedies work in young children.
But guess what? Cough medicines usually don’t work for grown-ups, either. The
American College of Chest Physicians last year issued new guidelines for
treating coughs, and concluded that many popular medications simply don’t
quiet coughs caused by the common cold. In particular, the group concluded
that the drug guaifenesin – an expectorant found in such popular brands as
Robitussin and Mucinex – doesn’t calm coughs due to colds. Neither do two
suppressants, codeine and dextromethorphan, though they may help coughs due
to causes other than colds.
Drug makers have long defended their products by noting that an F.D.A.
review a decade ago concluded the ingredients were safe and effective. They
say people wouldn’t buy cough medicines if they didn’t work. In cough
studies, however, as many as 40 percent of patients taking placebos report
improvement, the chest doctors noted.
An industry trade group last week urged the F.D.A. to consider warning
labels saying that cough medicines should not be given to children younger
than 2. But according to the college’s guidelines, over-the-counter cough
and cold remedies shouldn’t be used by kids under age 14.
Dr. Barney Softness, a New York pediatrician, says he has long warned
parents that cough and cold medicines are likely to do more harm than good.
Side effects can include palpitations, headaches, dizziness, anxiousness and
hyperactivity. “Just like too much coffee,” says Dr. Softness. “It’s just
more pathetic in infants and toddlers.” An even bigger concern is that some
over-the-counter cold drugs can make asthma symptoms worse, says Dr.
So what do you do to quiet a cough? For adults, the American College of
Chest Physicians recommends old-line antihistamines that aren’t even
marketed as cough drugs, including diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in
Benadryl; dexbrompheniramine, an active ingredient in Drixoral; and
chlorpheniramine, the active ingredient in Chlor-Trimeton. The downside is
that the drugs can make you drowsy. They can also worsen prostate problems
in men. Pain relievers such as naproxen and ibuprofen also may help patients
with coughs caused by the common cold. But they can also cause stomach upset
or increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
For kids, there are fewer options, but cough is “ultimately not as harmful
as people think,” said Dr. Softness. “Warm humid air, honey, and yes,
chicken soup work as well as anything.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company