A spoonful of honey – treating children’s coughs

honey and lemon2

‘Tis the season, coughs and snotty noses abound. A nasty cold or cough is uncomfortable for all, but for infants and very young children, unable to express themselves or understand what is happening, it can be particularly difficult. Before you go out and get an over-the-counter medication to soothe your child’s throat be aware of the warnings against using over the counter cough and cold medications.

In 2007 a number of children’s cough medications were withdrawn from the market. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised parents and physicians not to give young children cough and cold syrups.

A growing body of evidence suggested that non-prescription medications for cough and cold actually did little to aid recovery. These medications also pose risks with regard to a rare adverse reaction due to unintentional overdosing. The Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory recommending that parents do not give these products to children under the age of 2 because of the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

What to do when we want to ease our children’s discomfort.

(Information posted here does not constitute medical advice and should not be used to replace seeking a health care professional’s expert advice.)

It is important to understand that most coughs and colds are the result of contracting a virus and do not respond to antibiotics. Inappropriate use of antibiotics can result in an allergic reaction or antibiotic side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections. Antibiotics may also kill beneficial bacteria and encourage the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The best way to treat cold and coughs is with prevention.  Teaching and modeling proper and frequent hand-washing is important. See this post on RSV for more prevention tips.

Here are several suggestions:

Honey and lemon

A favorite in our home, among those over one year old, is a cup of hot water with honey and lemon slices. There have been multiple studies that have shown that honey is effective in easing a cough(1).

 Honey is not to be given to children under one year of age as it carries a risk of infant botulism which can be life-threatening.


You can also encourage your child to drink more fluids. Being hydrated whether by broths, water, or juices helps loosen the mucus making it easier for your child to cough or blow their nose. Another plus of keeping hydrated – liquids can sooth an irritated throat.


Elevating your child’s head while they sleep can ease a cough.

Saline and suction

If your child is having trouble breathing or drinking because of nasal congestion, you can clear their nasal passages with a little saline solution drops or spray followed by proper use of a suction bulb. (2)


Close the bathroom door, run the shower to get the bathroom steamy and then sit with your child in the bathroom. (Young children should not be left in any room with standing water that they can access.) The moist air can help clear upper respiratory passages.

Keep warm, safe and healthy this holiday season.

(1)Warren, M.D., Pont, S.J., Barkin, S.L., Callahan, S.T., Caples, T.L, Carroll, K.N., Plemmons, G.S., Swan, R.R., Cooper, W.O., The Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Children and Their Parents Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1149-1153 FULL TEXT Accessed 12-7-2011

(2) Child and Colds, Healthy Children Blog, American Academy of Pediatrics FULL TEXT Accessed 12-7-2011

Whooping Cough cases on the rise

Peds ED Logo_RGBTMC’s Pediatric Emergency Department is issuing a heads-up about a recent increase in cases of pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough.  So far this year, nine cases have been confirmed – eight of those coming in just since May.

At this point, the Pima County Health Department is NOT considering this an outbreak or epidemic.  TMC simply wants to make people aware, and take the opportunity to educate the public.

Symptoms are similar to an upper respiratory infection:  Cough, cold, congestion and fever.  How can you tell if your child’s cough is caused from a cold?  Could it be croup?  How do you know if it’s whooping cough?  You may hear a croup cough described as a barking cough that sounds like a seal.  Whooping cough is a cough that does not stop.  It’s especially dangerous to those with compromised immune systems – the very young, and the very old.

“It’s very dangerous for young children, especially babies, as it affects their ability to breathe,” explained Tammy Myers, RN.  “Babies can cough so hard and so long that oftentimes they appear to be choking, and can turn blue.  They come into TMC’s Pediatric Emergency Department, and can end up in the ICU with pneumonia where they may need help breathing.  We especially want to protect the little ones who don’t have much immunity on board yet.  We also want to protect our elderly and make sure they are vaccinated and seeing their provider regularly.  They too can get very ill.”

The good news – pertussis is preventable.

The best way to avoid it?  Get vaccinated.  There are vaccines for infants, children, preteens, adults and seniors.  The childhood vaccine is called DTaP.  The pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap.  It’s a combination of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines.

Make sure everyone in your family has immunizations that are up to date, and that everyone is receiving regular checkups.

Rest assured that TMC takes care of these patients quickly, and in a manner not to expose others.  All safety measures are strictly followed.  If a patient comes in with a suspected case of whooping cough, masks are immediately placed on everyone.  The patient is placed in a negative pressure room that is like an isolation area so that others are not exposed.

In the event you are exposed to pertussis, or start to develop symptoms, let your physician know right away.  Your provider may prescribe medication to treat you.  Also, it’s imperative that you wear a mask to the doctor’s office, or ask them to provide you with one immediately so that you are not spreading it to our community.

Click here to see KGUN 9 On Your Side’s coverage of this story.

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461