The best ideas are sometimes the simplest and sweetest. Recent warnings about the ineffectiveness and potential dangers of giving cough medication to young children may have left some parents asking, "What now?" The what-now may be sitting on millions of pantry shelves, whether in a bear-shaped plastic bottle or a glass jar with a sticky dipper inside.

In a 2007 research study from Pennsylvania State University, children given a teaspoonful of buckwheat honey had fewer overnight coughing symptoms and improved quality of sleep - better than the tested over-the-counter cough medication. And their parents were sweet on the honey's effects, too. Quiet, sleeping kids make for a sounder sleep for mom and dad than do hacking, miserable kids.

Why honey goes down so well with coughing kids could be due to more than its sweet taste. You may not have to coax most kids into gulping down a spoonful of honey, but some researchers have even suggested that honey's sweet taste could stimulate saliva and cause secretion of mucus, soothing and clearing the throat more quickly.

There are a couple of caveats to the honey hoopla, however. Honey should never be given to babies under the age of 1 year because of the risk of infant botulism, a bacterial toxin that can cause constipation and neurological symptoms. Also, some children in the research study did experience symptoms of hyperactivity after taking a dose of honey.

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Amy Toffelmire