Although unsafe for babies, honey can help soothe coughing in older children, the study found.
It's often the worst part of colds in little ones: the cough that keeps them (and their parents) up at night. A 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics builds the evidence that honey can help.
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The small study involved 300 children ages 1 to 5, none of whom had asthma or pneumonia, the Washington Post reports. All had been coughing an average of three days due to a cold. Researchers randomly assigned them one of three types of honey or a date syrup placebo, and gave the kids 10 mg about a half hour before bed. Parents later completed a survey about their child's cough. From the Washington Post:
Comparing the night the children took honey or the placebo with the previous night, coughing was less frequent and less severe, on average, for all the children, whether they got honey or the placebo. Their sleep improved, too, as did their parents'. However, as measured on a 20-point scale that considered all symptoms, improvement was greater among children who had taken honey.
Dark honeys like buckwheat are thought to work best because they're higher in antioxidants. Children ages 1 to 5 years may have half a teaspoon and kids ages 6 to 11 can take one teaspoon.
Experts warn that over-the-counter cold and cough remedies can have dangerous side effects in young children, making honey a handy tool. But the researchers did stress that honey should never be given to children younger than 1 year because they could get botulism from the bacteria in it. (A seperate study found agave nectar is a suitable alternative to honey for infants as young as 2 months.)