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Dextromethorphan Loses to Honey As Cough Remedy

Parents say honey more effective at reducing kids' nighttime coughing

MONDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Parents of children with upper respiratory tract infections rate buckwheat honey as the most effective treatment for nighttime coughing compared to honey-flavored dextromethorphan (DM) or placebo, according to a report in the December issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Ian M. Paul, M.D., of Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, and colleagues recruited 105 children who had presented with upper respiratory infections to a university-affiliated pediatric practice. The children were separated into three age groups (2-5, 6-11 and 12-18 years) and then randomly assigned to receive, 30 minutes before bedtime, either honey, artificially flavored DM in a mixture resembling honey, or placebo. Parents were interviewed at enrollment and again by telephone the following day.

Honey was rated as providing the greatest improvement in all outcomes, including reduction of cough frequency and improvement in the child's sleep. DM scored second place in all outcomes. In paired comparisons, honey was significantly superior to placebo for cough frequency and the combined score. DM was not better than placebo for any outcome.

"While our findings and the absence of contemporary studies supporting the use of DM continue to question its effectiveness for the treatment of cough associated with upper respiratory tract infections, we have now provided evidence supporting honey, which is generally regarded as safe for children older than 1 year, as an alternative," the authors conclude.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Honey Board, an industry-funded agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Paul has been a consultant to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

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