If a child has a cough and cold a single dose of buckwheat just before bedtime may relieve the cough and help him/her sleep better, compared to giving nothing or an OTC (over-the-counter) cough medicine, according to an article in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (JAMA/Archives), December issue.

The authors explain “Cough is the reason for nearly 3 percent of all outpatient visits in the United States, more than any other symptom, and it most commonly occurs in conjunction with an upper respiratory tract infection.”

A cough can seriously disrupt a child’s sleep. The researchers write that the most commonly used OTC medication for children’s cough is dextromethorphan – a treatment which is not supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, nor the American College of Chest Physicians. “In many cultures, alternative remedies such as honey are used to treat upper respiratory tract infection symptoms including cough.”

Ian M. Paul, M.D., M.Sc., Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, and team carried out a study on 105 children – they were aged 2-18, and all were suffering from upper respiratory tract infections. They were ill for up to seven days and experienced symptoms during the night. 35 of them were randomly selected to receive a dose of honey, another 33 were given dextromethorphan, while the other 37 were given nothing – those receiving treatment got it 30 minutes before bedtime. Their parents had to fill in a survey assessing their child’s cough and sleep difficulty twice – once for the night before treatment, and then again for the night with treatment.

The researchers found that honey helped children the most by far, followed by dextromethorphan. Honey helped alleviate the following problems – cough frequency, cough severity, the child’s sleep, and the parents’ sleep.

The writers concluded “While our findings and the absence of contemporary studies supporting the use of dextromethorphan 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. While additional studies to confirm our findings should be encouraged, each clinician should consider the findings for honey, the absence of such published findings for dextromethorphan and the potential for adverse effects and cumulative costs associated with the use of dextromethorphan when recommending treatments for families.”

“Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents”
Ian M. Paul, MD, MSc; Jessica Beiler, MPH; Amyee McMonagle, RN; Michele L. Shaffer, PhD; Laura Duda, MD; Cheston M. Berlin Jr, MD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1140-1146.
Click here to view abstract online

Written by – Christian Nordqvist