Q. Can you suggest an effective home remedy for a child's cough?
A. "This is something that comes up all the time in my office," says Dr. Megan Kasnicki, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. If a child has a garden variety cold and cough, and doesn't have other health issues such as asthma, wheezing or fever, Kasnicki recommends a dose of honey instead of over-the-counter cough suppressants. In fact, honey is her preferred treatment, she says.
"Frequently parents will use a lot of the over-the-counter stuff because it looks so enticing," she says. But even the American Academy of Pediatrics says those don't work for children younger than 6 and in some cases may pose a health risk. Studies have shown that one to two teaspoons of honey at night helps reduce the severity of a cough and helps kids sleep better, she says. It can be swallowed straight, or mixed into warm milk or tea. "It sticks to the throat so it decreases the mucus, which makes them more comfortable. It has antioxidants, which kills the virus off," Kasnicki says
The best choice of honey is a locally produced, darker kind of honey, such as one sold by a Suffolk County farm, she says: "The darker the honey color, the better." But never give honey to babies younger than 1, as it can cause botulism. In addition to honey, Kasnicki recommends using a humidifier and saline nasal sprays to help with cough and cold symptoms.