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

Answer From Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

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

In one study, children ages 1 to 5 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.

With

Pritish K. Tosh, M.D.

Aug. 06, 2020 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Acute bronchitis: Is it contagious?
  2. Acute sinusitis
  3. Acute sinusitis: Do over-the-counter treatments help?
  4. Adjuvant therapy for cancer
  5. Albuterol side effects
  6. Allergies
  7. Allergy medications: Know your options
  8. Allergy-proof your home
  9. Alternative cancer treatments: 10 options to consider
  10. Aortic aneurysm
  11. Asbestosis
  12. Ascariasis
  13. Asthma attack
  14. Asthma: Colds and flu
  15. Atelectasis
  16. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  17. Avoid rebound nasal congestion
  18. Barrel chest: What causes it?
  19. Barrett's esophagus
  20. Barrett's Study Results
  21. Bile reflux
  22. Biopsy procedures
  23. Bird flu (avian influenza)
  24. Blood tests for heart disease
  25. Mitral valve clip to treat mitral regurgitation: Bob's story
  26. Mitral valve overview
  27. Video: Aortic Surgery: What Patients Need to Know
  28. Fact or Fiction? Debunking Exercise & Nutrition Myths for Preventing Heart Disease and Risk Factors
  29. Healthy Heart Numbers
  30. Heart disease in women
  31. Heart Failure
  32. Sports Cardiology Program
  33. Treating Pericarditis
  34. Video: Valve-Sparing Aortic Root Replacement
  35. Bronchitis
  36. Can chicken soup cure a cold?
  37. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  38. COVID-19 and vitamin D
  39. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  40. Cancer
  41. Cancer blood tests
  42. Myths about cancer causes
  43. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  44. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  45. Cancer diagnosis? Advice for dealing with what comes next
  46. Cancer-related fatigue
  47. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  48. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  49. Cancer surgery
  50. Cancer survival rate
  51. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  52. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  53. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  54. Cancer survivors: Reconnecting with loved ones after treatment
  55. Cancer treatment decisions: 5 steps to help you decide
  56. Cancer treatment delays due to COVID-19
  57. Safe cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
  58. Cancer treatment for men: Possible sexual side effects
  59. Cancer treatment for women: Possible sexual side effects
  60. Cancer treatment myths
  61. Cancer Vaccine Research
  62. Cardiac asthma: What causes it?
  63. Infographic: Cardiac sarcoidosis: A heart under attack
  64. Castleman disease
  65. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  66. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  67. Chicken soup: Can it treat a cold?
  68. COPD
  69. Chronic sinusitis
  70. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  71. Cold and flu viruses: How long can they live outside the body?
  72. Cold or allergy: Which is it?
  73. Cold remedies
  74. Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm?
  75. Common cold
  76. Common cold in babies
  77. Control your portions, control your weight
  78. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  79. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  80. Coronavirus: What is it and how can I protect myself?
  81. Coronavirus grief
  82. Coronavirus travel advice
  83. Coronavirus vs. flu: Similarities and differences
  84. Cough
  85. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  86. COVID-19 and high blood pressure
  87. COVID-19 and pets
  88. COVID-19 and the risk of suicide
  89. COVID-19 and your mental health
  90. COVID-19 (coronavirus) drugs: Are there any that work?
  91. COVID-19 (coronavirus) in babies and children
  92. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  93. COVID-19 (coronavirus) stigma: What it is and how to reduce it
  94. COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine
  95. COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?
  96. Coping with unemployment caused by COVID-19
  97. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  98. COVID-19: Social distancing, contact tracing are critical
  99. COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?
  100. Croup
  101. Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia
  102. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  103. Daily aspirin therapy
  104. Debunking coronavirus myths
  105. Cancer-related diarrhea
  106. Dilated cardiomyopathy
  107. Does honey really help with allergies?
  108. Does zinc work for colds?
  109. Dust mite allergy
  110. Dysphagia
  111. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  112. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  113. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  114. Ebola virus and Marburg virus
  115. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  116. Egg allergy
  117. Ehrlichiosis
  118. Heart transplant to treat dilated cardiomyopathy: Elmo's story
  119. Enlarged heart
  120. Esophageal cancer
  121. Infographic: Esophageal Cancer
  122. Esophagitis
  123. External Drive: Charles' Artificial Heart
  124. Surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
  125. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  126. Flu masks
  127. Flu shots
  128. Flu shots and heart disease
  129. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  130. Flu vaccine: Safe for people with egg allergy?
  131. Fluzone High-Dose: What distinguishes it from other flu vaccines?
  132. Football Spinal Cord Injury - The Chris Norton Story
  133. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  134. GERD: Can certain medications make it worse?
  135. Getting safe emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  136. Goiter
  137. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  138. Grass-fed beef
  139. Group B strep disease
  140. H1N1 flu (swine flu)
  141. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  142. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  143. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  144. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  145. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  146. Healthy Heart for Life!
  147. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  148. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  149. Heart disease
  150. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  151. Heart failure
  152. Heart failure and sex: Is it safe?
  153. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  154. Heart murmurs
  155. Heartburn medicines and B-12 deficiency
  156. Kids, loneliness and COVID-19
  157. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  158. Histoplasmosis
  159. HIV/AIDS
  160. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  161. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  162. Holiday Heart
  163. How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests?
  164. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  165. How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
  166. How well do you wash your hands?
  167. Humidifier care 101
  168. Humidifiers
  169. Influenza (flu)
  170. Interstitial lung disease
  171. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  172. Laryngitis
  173. What causes laryngospasm?
  174. Legionnaires' disease
  175. Low blood counts
  176. Lung cancer
  177. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  178. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  179. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  180. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  181. Measles
  182. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  183. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  184. Mesothelioma
  185. Milk allergy
  186. Mitral valve regurgitation
  187. Mitral valve stenosis
  188. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  189. Mort Crim and Cancer
  190. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  191. Nasal Cleaning
  192. Nasal spray addiction: Is it real?
  193. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  194. Neti pot solution: Can I make my own?
  195. Neurosurgery during the COVID-19 pandemic
  196. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  197. Nonallergic rhinitis
  198. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  199. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  200. He's the bravest kid I've ever seen
  201. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  202. Omega-3 in fish
  203. Omega-6 fatty acids
  204. Opera Star's Surgery
  205. Parenting and special needs during a pandemic
  206. Pectus excavatum
  207. Pectus Excavatum
  208. Pericardial effusion
  209. Pericarditis
  210. Pet allergy
  211. Pet allergy: Are there hypoallergenic dog breeds?
  212. Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?
  213. Pleurisy
  214. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  215. Pneumonia
  216. Pneumonitis
  217. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  218. Pregnancy and COVID-19
  219. PrEP to prevent HIV
  220. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  221. Pulmonary edema
  222. Pulmonary embolism
  223. Pulmonary fibrosis
  224. Put fish on the menu
  225. Q fever
  226. Coronavirus infection by race
  227. Recurrent breast cancer
  228. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  229. Researchers Develop New Stents for Complex Aortic Aneurysms
  230. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  231. Robotic heart surgery treats mitral regurgitation: Ed's story
  232. Roseola
  233. Routine cancer screening during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
  234. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  235. Safety tips for returning to school during COVID-19
  236. Sarcoidosis
  237. Self-care for the flu
  238. Self-Image During Cancer
  239. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  240. Sex and COVID-19
  241. Sinus headaches
  242. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  243. Sjogren's syndrome
  244. Sjogren's syndrome: Can it cause recurrent UTIs?
  245. Skin care tips during a pandemic
  246. Radiation simulation
  247. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  248. Sodium: Smarten up
  249. Spinal cord injury
  250. Stay healthy during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
  251. Stay on track with medications during a pandemic
  252. Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  253. Heart disease prevention
  254. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  255. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  256. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  257. Teleworking during the coronavirus
  258. Thalidomide: Research advances in cancer and other conditions
  259. Infographic: The blueprints to your heart
  260. Thoracic aortic aneurysm
  261. Throat cancer
  262. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  263. Treating COVID-19 at home
  264. Tuberculosis
  265. Tuberous sclerosis
  266. Tularemia
  267. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  268. Unusual symptoms of coronavirus
  269. Valley fever
  270. Vascular rings
  271. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  272. Asthma attack video
  273. Cryotherapy
  274. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  275. How cancer spreads
  276. Mitral valve regurgitation
  277. PICC line placement
  278. Radiofrequency ablation
  279. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  280. Walking pneumonia
  281. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  282. Fight coronavirus transmission at home
  283. Heart failure action plan
  284. Contact tracing and COVID-19: What is it and how does it work?
  285. What is MERS-CoV?
  286. What's the difference between H1N1 flu and influenza A?
  287. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  288. Whipple's disease
  289. Whooping cough
  290. Whooping cough
  291. Infographic: Women and Heart Disease
  292. Your secret weapon during cancer treatment? Exercise!
  293. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?