Is it true that honey calms coughs better than cough medicine does?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Drinking tea or warm lemon water mixed with honey is a time-honored way to soothe a sore throat. But honey may be an effective cough suppressant, too.

In one study, children age 2 and older with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. The honey seemed to reduce nighttime coughing and improve sleep.

In fact, in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan, in typical over-the-counter doses. Since honey is low-cost and widely available, it might be worth a try.

However, due to the risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning, never give honey to a child younger than age 1.

And remember: Coughing isn't all bad. It helps clear mucus from your airway. If you or your child is otherwise healthy, there's usually no reason to suppress a cough.

Jul. 11, 2012 See more Expert Answers