Honey and lozenges for children with non-specific cough

Symptomatic relief is often sought for children with chronic non-specific cough (which is defined as a dry, non-productive cough with no known cause lasting longer than four consecutive weeks).  This review aimed to assess the efficacy of treating children with such coughs using honey or lozenges, as these options are inexpensive.  No randomised controlled trials were found to be applicable to this review, primarily due to the participants in the studies not fulfilling the inclusion criteria.  However, studies on the efficacy of these treatments in treating acute cough in children showed that honey has the potential to be beneficial in children over a year old.  Further research evaluating the efficacy of honey and lozenges in treating chronic non-specific coughs in children is needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

Clinically, this review was unable to provide any justifiable recommendation for or against honey and/or lozenges due to the lack of evidence. The absence of applicable studies highlights the need for further research into the area of treating children with chronic non-specific coughs with honey and/or lozenges. These treatments are not recommended when managing very young children (as lozenges are a potential choking hazard, and honey may cause infant botulism in children under one year of age).

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Background: 

Chronic non-specific cough is a chronic, dry cough of in the absence of identifiable respiratory disease or known aetiology.  Although it is usually not reflective of an underlying severe illness, it does cause significant morbidity, and as such relief from it is often sought. The use of honey and lozenges to soothe upper respiratory tract irritation is common, inexpensive, and potentially more effective in treating the symptoms than pharmacological interventions.

Objectives: 

To evaluate the efficacy of honey and/or lozenges in the management of children with chronic non-specific cough.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Airways Group searched the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, OLDMEDLINE, and EMBASE databases in October 2010.           

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials comparing honey or lozenges with a placebo in treating children with chronic non-specific cough.

Data collection and analysis: 

The results of the searches were assessed according to the pre-determined criteria.  None of the trials identified by the searches were eligible for inclusion, leaving no data available for analysis in this review.

Main results: 

The search did not provide any applicable randomised controlled trials that investigated the efficacy of honey and lozenges in treating children with non-specific chronic cough.  Data from acute studies suggest a potential role for honey in relieving cough, but whether this is applicable to chronic cough is unknown.

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