Searching For A Sweet Solution

Last week in a shop searching for a card for my Valentine, I heard a little girl in another aisle coughing and coughing and coughing. Standing in line waiting to pay for my selection (and a box of Sarris chocolates, of course), I could see the little girl slowly spinning in a circle as her mom looked at one card, decided it wasnt the one, and perused another. That hacking, barely wet cough didnt seem to be keeping her down at least at this moment, an hour before noon (and perhaps two until her nap). The little girls mom might have looked a little tired to me, but not at all disturbed by her daughters spinning and coughing and coughing and coughing

Does her cough go on like that all night? I wondered.Ive been a parent for a long time, and a pediatrician even longer long enough to know that the answer would surely be affirmative. In the middle of the day, however, what was clear was that the cherry lollipop (or was it watermelon?) she was sucking on wasnt having the hopeful effect of stifling the cough in the card store. This may have been the first day the cough appeared after the onset of a runny nose, or the 20th day after the gooey and crusty nasal discharge was long gone. I bet the girls mom would know. Did she have any tricks for making that loud, incessant cough quiet down, at least for a little while (and especially at night, when coughing is always worse)? Cough drops? Chicken soup? Cool mist humidifier? Vicks VapoRub applied to her chest (and, some swear by this, the soles of her feet)? Over-the-counter cough and cold elixirs?

Selena Simmons-Duffin recentlydiscovered the truth about over-the-counter cough medicines: They take up a lot of space in the medicine aisle, but they simply dont work:

Youll see labels with babies and crescent moons that promise to relieve chest congestion and help your kid sleep.

Pediatrician Jennifer Shu says dont buy it. Shu, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says the shelves of kids cough medicine at the pharmacy are not really about good medicine its marketing.

If you make it, some people are going to buy it, she says. Thats why you see lots of products on shelves that may not be necessary or even safe for kids.

Mostly, these kids cough syrups have either a cough suppressant like dextromethorphan (in Robitussin and Delsym, for example) or an antihistamine like diphenhydramine (in Benadryl and Dimetapp).

What the studies have shown is that for some reason in kids they arent that effective, she explains.

Plus, these drugs can cause side effects, she says, such as increasing your blood pressure, making your heart rate go up or suppressing the drive to breathe and thats definitely something we dont want for kids.

Two years ago, The PediaBlog warnedabout the use of opioid-containing cough medicines, available by prescription only, which are especially dangerous and should never be given to children:

There are prescription medications that can be prescribed, especially to suppress a persistent cough during a prolonged cold or as part of the flu. Most of these medicines contain codeine or hydrocodone, which are opioid drugs that the American Academy of Pediatrics and, in a new warning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), advise against giving to children. The urgency for such a warning comes as the nation combats a horrible opioid crisis []

One remedy for coughing that many parents use a treatment that is cheap, safe (for children over 12 months old only), and effective is commonly found in most home kitchens and pantries. Studies have shown that honey at the right dose is especially good for quieting nighttime coughs in children older than one:

Honey seems to work in three different ways. First, thick viscous honey forms a soothing coat (demulcent) over the mucus membranes of the throat, relieving minor pain and inflammation. Second, honeys sweetness increases saliva production and this can help thin out mucus and lubricate the back of the throat. Finally, honey is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids which help the bodys immune system fight infections.

Of course, if your childs cough is keeping her (and you) up at night, its important to observe for additional symptoms that can make a simple cough a greater concern. High fever, vomiting, severe abdominal pain or chest pain, and rapid or difficult breathing are all worrisome symptoms that can sometimes accompanying a cough and should be reported to and evaluated by your pediatrician.

Honey may not be the perfect, sweet solution to an annoying cough that parents are searching for to provide nighttime relief in kids. A half-teaspoon (one teaspoon for teenagers) before bed just might be the ticket to a more restful night.

(Google Images)