Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

Honey for Acute Cough in Children


Am Fam Physician. 2016 Jul 1;94(1):20-21.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Clinical Question

Is honey an effective treatment for acute cough in children?

Evidence-Based Answer

For patients one to 18 years of age, providing honey for cough symptoms can reduce the frequency and severity of cough, as well as improve sleep for patients and parents, when compared with placebo or no treatment. Honey is no better than dextromethorphan for symptom control. (Strength of Recommendation: A, based on consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence.)

Practice Pointers

Acute cough in children is a common reason for primary care visits. It is a source of anxiety for patients and parents, and may impact quality of life during the course of illness. From 1999 to 2006, approximately one child in 10 took an over-the-counter (OTC) cold medication in any given week.1 However, there is a lack of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of OTC or prescription medications for cough in patients younger than four years. These treatments often include dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine, which have potential adverse effects such as respiratory depression, hallucinations, dry mouth, and tachycardia. The authors

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


show all references

1. Vernacchio L, Kelly JP, Kaufman DW, Mitchell AA. Cough and cold medication use by US children, 1999–2006: results from the Slone Survey. Pediatrics. 2008;122(2):e323–e329....

2. Irwin RS, Baumann MH, Bolser DC, et al. Diagnosis and management of cough executive summary: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006;129(1 suppl):1S–23S.

3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Using over-the-counter cough and cold products in children. 2008. Accessed August 10, 2015.

4. Choosing Wisely Campaign. American Academy of Pediatrics. Cough and cold medicines should not be prescribed or recommended for respiratory illnesses in children under four years of age. 2013. Accessed August 10, 2015.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

This series is coordinated by Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Assistant Medical Editor.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at


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