A surprising way to help your toddler with nighttime coughing!

If you ever deal with a child with a nighttime cough, this information should help you!  What I am about to share was published in the Journal Pediatrics last month.  The information is intended to help doctors who care for young children to validate their current practices or to improve their practices.  I’ll share it with you so we are all “in the know”.

The study was done at Penn State College of Medicine and looked specifically at the treatment of acute cough.   A group of 119 children were included.  They all:
●  had coughs of 7 days duration or less
●  were between  2 months and 47 months of age
●  had not received any type of cough medicine before the office visit.

The purpose of the study was to determine if a single dose of “cough medicine” given at bedtime could improve the child’s sleep.  The parents (some were first-time parents) completed a questionnaire on the day they first brought their child to the clinic and again the next day.  All children were placed into 1 of 3 test groups:
●  no bedtime treatment
●  a single dose of pasteurized agave nectar (a sweet nectar with no known anti-cough effect)
●  a single dose of a “placebo” which was grape flavored sweetened water

A placebo is something that has no medicine in it, basically thought of as a “sugar pill”.  The patient doesn’t know that it is not real medicine.  If the placebo improves the patient’s signs and symptoms as well as, or better than medicine, it is called the “placebo effect”.

The parents who went home with the “cough medicine” did not know what they were given.  The parents in all 3 groups were surveyed the following day, specifically for the child’s:
●  cough frequency
●  cough severity
●  congestion severity
●  cough effect on child’s sleep
●  cough effect on parent’s sleep

The Results?  The two groups that received some kind of cough “medicine” have improvements in all areas at a much higher rate than the “no” treatment group.  Both the agave nectar and the flavored water had the same results.  Neither of these contained any real medicine, and yet they both improved the various issues  … and both by the same amount!  That boils down to a significant “placebo effect” with the special treatment, in this case, the cough “medicine”.

OK, so what might that mean for you and your children?  Here are my professional and personal thoughts:
●  you certainly don’t want to miss anything serious, so take your sick child to the doctor
●  don’t be a parent who insists upon “something for the cough”, be a parent who insists upon appropriate, excellent care of your child
●  if the doc feels a cough medicine will actually be helpful, they’ll prescribe it
●  consider the benefit of the placebo effect with your toddler age and older children.

At toddler age and older, you might want to create a special ritual to help them feel or sleep better when they have a cough.  What type of special thing?  Well, here are a few ideas –
●  a special herbal tea that you mix with “just the right amount” of milk and honey
●  a special backrub or foot rub or tapping on their back in a rhythmic fashion for 3 minutes
●   heck, even a teaspoon of actual agave nectar!
I don’t recommend that we pretend to give our children “medicine” that we know is not medicine.  You don’t want your child to grow up thinking that pills are a solution for life’s challenges!!

We hate to see our children sick.  Getting the OK from the doc makes sense when you are not sure.  You probably have your own special rituals already to help them!  Great!  In any case, we know the placebo effect does help!

Additional Resources:

Cough is the #1 reason for visiting the doctor

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