Answer – Health Literacy Pop Quiz

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Question

What common kitchen ingredient would I recommend using over cough syrups?


Answer

Honey.

I still cringe at the memory of artificial cherry or grape flavored cough syrups I was made to take as a kid–in hindsight these medicines probably did me almost no good. Most cough and “colds” are due to one of many different viruses that we don’t have an effective treatment for.

Because antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections (like anti-fungals are only useful for fungal infections), they are also unhelpful for these types of viral respiratory tract infections.

Many over-the-counter products out there have limited or no evidence that they actually help. Certainly, some people might benefit from the placebo effect, but personally I’d rather not waste my money on something that’s unlikely to make a difference.

Instead, try honey for children over age one. Evidence suggests honey probably relieves cough severity and shortens duration compared to placebo or doing nothing (Oduwole. 2018. “Honey for acute cough in children”, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.)


This is an excerpt from PART 4: ARMCHAIR EMERG DOC in a section called “Tips and Tricks for Common Conditions.”

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