Kenya’s dark honey best for treating cough in children – Cochrane Review

By Gatonye Gathura

Kenya’s dark honey  better than commercial syrups for treating cough in children, reports a 10-year Cochrane review.

The review shows honey, specifically the dark type from Kenya to offer best results compared to commercial cough syrups, other honey types, placebo, or no treatment at all.

The dark honey was found best in relieving cough symptoms, reducing cough severity and frequency and improving sleep in affected children and their parents.

The review compared studies which had tested the effectiveness of various honey types; from Asia, US, Middle East and Kenya in relieving cough in children with common cold.

The studies, covering 899 children aged 12 months to 18 years in Iran, Israel, the USA, Brazil, and Kenya had pitted their local honey types against commercial cough syrups.

The studies had also compared honey to placebo or no treatment at all. The Cochrane review appearing in April is the third within a decade on cough treatment and most comprehensive with the others published in 2010 and 2012.

The review says while the search for best cough treatment in children is not conclusive yet, Kenya’s dark honey so far has shown the best results.

Honey was found to relieve cough symptoms, reduce duration and improve sleep to a greater extent than no treatment, commercial syrups and or placebo.

A placebo is a substance containing no medical value used either in research or to reassure patients they are being treated.

In Kenya the new review; Honey for acute cough in children, appearing in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews had included a recent study carried out at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.

The Aga Khan team led by Dr Adil Warris had involved 145 children aged between one and 12 years attending the hospital. The medical researchers had put 45 of the children on placebo, 57 on honey and 43 on commercial cough medicines.

“Honey was most effective in reliving symptoms associated with the common cold whilst the drugs or placebo offered no benefit,” wrote the researchers in the East African Medical Journal.

Dr Warris recommends parents to substitute cough drugs with honey which apart from reliving the cold would make huge financial savings.

For example he says a 300 ml bottle of good honey costs about Sh618 locally, enough to treat four children while it costs about the same amount to buy cough syrups for one child.

The authors of the new review say when they compared types of honey, dark honey from Kenya reduced cough frequency and cough severity to a greater extent than the other types of honey.

The dark Kenyan honey, was administered thrice daily for five days.

Honey explains, Palu Dhanani, of the drug manufacturers Universal Corporation Ltd, has antioxidant properties and the darker the stronger.

The corporation which had provided the experimentation drugs to the Aga Khan University study has with several local universities developed a honey based cough treatment for children.

On 11th March 2009, the Aga Khan University Hospital and Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital shocked Kenyans when they withdrew cough medicines from their facilities saying the drugs were either useless or even harmful.

The hospitals had withdrawn all cough medicines from their pharmacies for children aged below 12 years. Other private facilities as well as Kenyatta National Hospital followed suit.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board has since recommended that cough syrups should not be used in children under two years and not be sold over the counter.

But a study published last year by KEMRI-Wellcome Trust, University of Nairobi and Oxford University, UK, showed despite the warning many children including infants are still being treated with the over the counter cough syrups in Kenya.

The researchers had evaluated the treatment of 17,963 children aged one month to 12 years in public hospitals and found many still being given cough medicines.

The red flag against possible risk of cough medicines in children was first publicly raised in 2007 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The organization had warned parents and physicians not to use the treatments in infants, after the deaths of three babies were linked to the toxic effects of cough and cold medicines.




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