Placebo, agave nectar help kids’ cough better than nothing
Parents often head to their pediatrician’s office when a persistent cough begins, particularly when the child is a toddler or even younger. When they arrive, parents are told to either give the child nothing or try acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Little evidence proves over-the-counter (OTC) medicines effective for coughs, and the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend them for children younger than 2-years-old because of safety concerns. Without helpful OTC remedies, many doctors report feeling pressured by some parents to prescribe antibiotics, which also do nothing for coughs or the viruses that cause their symptoms.
Researchers studied nearly 120 children between the ages of 2 and 47 months who had acute cough with nighttime symptoms lasting a week or less. Three participant groups received one of three treatments: commercially available grape-flavored agave nectar, grape-flavored water or no treatment at all.
Study results found both the placebo and agave nectar to be more effective than no treatment at all. Although honey has been found to be more effective than placebo for children’s coughs in past studies, children younger than 1 are not advised to take it due to risk of infantile botulism. Agave nectar is similar to honey in terms of physical properties without known risks of infantile botulism.
Researchers believed that using a placebo for coughs in younger children could reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions and offer upset parents a solution.
“We know sick children are miserable and can’t sleep, and parents are frustrated that they can’t do anything to help,” said study co-author Ian Paul in a statement.
“Perhaps this is a case where giving a placebo, such as agave nectar or sugar water, can help parents and their babies get through this annoying illness,” added Paul, professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa.
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