Treat parents for coughing children

True or false?

Treat parents for coughing children

Surprising as it may sound, the treatment for a baby’s cough may be a placebo.

Researchers studied 119 children, two months to four-years-old with coughs lasting seven days or lesser.

They included children with non-specific acute coughs, eliminating any child with signs or symptoms of more treatable diseases like asthma or pneumonia, or a history of lung disease or other chronic illness.

They divided the children into three groups. The first was given a dose of agave nectar, the second grape-flavoured water, and the third no treatment at all.

Agave nectar is similar to honey in sweetness, viscosity and taste.

Honey has been shown to be an effective cough suppressant in children younger than six, but is not recommended for those younger than one, because it can, in rare cases, cause infant botulism.

So the authors hypothesised that agave nectar might work for all children and be safer than honey for the youngest.

The parents, who did not know whether they were giving the nectar or the placebo, recorded the severity and frequency of their children’s coughs, and whether the
coughing interfered with their own or their child’s sleep.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that the agave nectar and the placebo were significantly more effective than no treatment.

But parents reported that the nectar and placebo worked equally well.

The lead author, Dr Ian M Paul, acknowledged that the placebo was probably
working on the parents, not the child, but that recommending one might be a good strategy for pediatricians.

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