Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grandma Beats Science

I couldn't sleep last night. Like Landon, when I'm overtired, I have a very hard time falling asleep, and I'm so far beyond overtired, I'm overexhausted. The benefit of all the tossing and turning is that I wrote about 6 blog posts in my head. I think some of them were even good- I just can't remember any of them now. Luckily two headlines caught my eye this morning and provided me with some quick blogging fodder:

The first is a Penn State study comparing the effectiveness of different cough remedies for kids ages 2-18. Pediatricians enrolled more than 100 children to compare the effects of no medication, honey, or dextromethorphan (DM)—an over the counter cough suppressant—on cough associated with a cold. The results: Among the three types of treatment, dextromethorphan and honey turned out to be better than nothing, but honey scored the best of all for cough suppression, children's sleep, and parents' sleep.

The second is the FDA's conclusion that over-the-counter cold remedies are not safe for children under the age of 2 and probably should not be given to children younger than 6 (they have yet to officially rule on that age group). According to their studies and scientists, there’s no evidence that the drugs ease cold symptoms in children so young, and they may even do no good at all. And while serious side effects are fairly rare, they do occur. As one scientists put: “It’s one thing if you’re curing cancer, but we’re talking about a self-limiting illness... If there’s really no evidence of benefit, you don’t want to risk the rare problem. Then you’re left with tragedy that you can’t justify.”

So it turns out grandma's old-fashioned honey remedy is not only safer, it's more effective. (Note: you are not supposed to give honey to a baby younger than 1 because of the risk of infant botulism, so for kids younger than 1 the "treatment" is just fluids, sleep, and cuddling.) While I love modern medicine and have made frequent use of its gifts (ex: the epidural), I'm a big believer in old home remedies as well. As shown here, some of them are better and safer than what we've tried to recreate in a lab. I think that a nice combination of the two approaches is best. Any other good ones I should know about?


  1. I always put honey in my hot tea when I am sick. Although I still use the over the counter medicines when I am sick as well.

  2. I will have to try honey the next time my son (he's 2) has a bad cough keeping him up at night. In the past, when it's been really bad, I've resorted to an antihistamine--it dulls that tickle in the back of the throat and knocks him out, so we all get some rest. I hate to medicate him if I don't have to.

    At the same time, though, if nothing else works, I will use an antihistamine and feel okay about it--we've never had a problem, and I get the correct dosages from my pediatrician (by weight, not age).

  3. I got an email about rubbing Vicks Vapor rub on your feet and putting socks on while you sleep. It is suppose to help to help ease coughing. I did it with my 3 year old and he only coughed one time all night compared to a million the previous nights. It might be psychological but it seemed to work and harmless!

    Honey . . . I have heard if you take a tablespoon of honey from the area you live it helps with allergies too. Something about the bees collecting the pollen in your area so it has to be honey made near where you lived. Haven't tried it!

  4. Blah - LM has had so many colds already! Right now is the worst one yet. One trick I've been told to do for his cough, by my mother, the nurse's hotline AND the doctor, was to steam him out. I took him in the shower with me and just let him breathe in all that humidity to help clear the air passages. Bonus: he loved it. Also, I'm well-acquainted with the saline drops and those are pretty good to clear a stuffed baby nose. I've never been able to get that bulb syringe thing to work though...

  5. We use honey, but add a bit of lemon juice, too. The honey soothes, and the lemon is supposed to help with the mucus issue.

    We usually mix up about 1/4 cup of honey and maybe a tsp of lemon juice and keep it in a teeny tupperware-type container when somebody has a sore throat.

    My husband's daughter is ten, and if she's sick but mobile, we order a cup of hot water with a lemon wedge and a packet of honey when we're out at a restaurant, which seems to calm her cough quite a bit.

  6. Thank you for the information about honey for coughs. I have a 14 month-old, and although I still have a small stockpile of coveted “infant” cold medicine, which I dispense carefully only when really needed, it’s very nice to have an alternative. My grandma always recommended honey for sore throats. It coats the throat nicely and is much more pleasant tasting than medicine.

    Also, as a mom to three little ones under the age of six (a working mom, hahahaha, and you think you’re tired!), I’ve discovered a number of dependably successful natural remedies. In the cold department…saline, saline, saline. Buy some basic saline drops at your local drugstore and squirt away. NO suction bulb in most cases. Just squirt the saline in each nostril (child should be laying down or able to tilt back head) and wait. The mess, it will come. However, once you’ve wiped away the inevitable rush of loosened mucus, you’ll find a child who will breathe better, sleep better, and will cough less since post-nasal drip is often what causes that nagging nighttime cough.

    Another good home remedy: blueberries, they are magical. Blueberries (pureed or in yogurt is best) are a natural laxative to relieve constipation. They’re also more palatable than prunes.

  7. Once I was 4 or 5 yrs old, my grandmother would give me her own special remedy: 1 shot of Rock and Rye, 1/2 shot of honey, tbsp of fresh lemon juice.

    The alcohol kills the germs, and combined with the lemon juice, burns through the mucus. The honey soothes. This had the added bonus of ensuring that kids think alcohol is the nastiest liquid on earth! I was in college before I even had a sip of any other alcohol!

    *Obviously, this is not a good remedy for babies, but it works great on kids and adults.

  8. i do believe my love of whiskey came from the whiskey-on-the-gums-for-teething trick my mom inherited from generations of irish grandmothers.

    my mother's favorite remedy for all icky feeling ailments: hot (diluted) jello juice. it always soothed my throat and it was a special treat only for when i was sick. effective? probably not. but a lasting memory :)

  9. Vicks vapobath, vicks vaporub (3 months and older I think)

    My husband jokes that Vicks is to me is what Windex was to the father character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

    Got a headache?...vicks.
    Stuffy nose?...vicks.
    Sinus pressure?...vicks.
    General malaise?...vicks.
    Can't sleep?...vicks.
    Bad day?...vicks.
    Feeling fat?...vicks.
    Need a pardon from sex?...vicks.

    Okay so maybe not the last few.

    Agree with those saline drop and I do yield a mean bulb action. Love that thing!

  10. I still had a stockpile of infant cold meds from when Gavin was little, and I will admit that when Cooper had the croup for over a week, I did give him the cough suppresant at night only so that all of us could sleep and it worked for him. Gavin always responded well to cold relief medications as well. But I think if he gets another cold this season, I will try the honey.

  11. I'm convinced cold medicine doesn't work for anyone, regardless of their age. But there are definite benefits to drug-induced sleep. If I'm unconscious, then I don't know I feel like crap, and I wake up three days later feeling much better! ;)

    I agree with the saline drops. The adult version is the neti pot, a/k/a the snot pot. Works wonders!

  12. omg, I too write blogs in my head when I can't sleep. Like you, I never can remember them either.

    Nice sleeping tips! Since I've become pregnant, I have crazy itches right aroung bedtime that make it impossible to fall asleep. But once I do, I'm out like a light-- and even sleep in past class time-- oops.

  13. ...a teaspoon of honey with some black pepper sprinkled on it does wonders for coughs...vicks and steaming work great for stuff noses/congestion...and a big, hot, steaming cup of tea works wonders for everything :-)...


  14. There's nothing like lying awake at night listening to your infant slurping on phlegm!