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Agave nectar could help child's nightime cough

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Sometimes, it's just the thought that counts- even when it comes to kids and coughs. A new study finds giving kids agave nectar or a placebo were both perceived by parents to be better options to treat a nighttime cough than doing nothing at all.

"The agave nectar and the placebo water actually both had a significant impact on the criteria that they looked at and those criteria were things like less coughing at night and less bothersome coughing," explained Cleveland Clinic Children's Pediatrician Dr. Deb Lonzer.

There is little evidence supporting the use of over the counter medications for coughing in kids. Honey can help, but it is not recommended for children younger than one year because of concerns over infant botulism.

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Agave nectar has properties similar to honey, but no links to botulism. So, Penn State University researchers wanted to know if agave nectar can be a viable treatment option for parents when it comes to taming their child's cough- especially at night. They compared the nectar, and a placebo, to doing nothing at all. A placebo is a substance with no medical benefit, which in this case was grape-flavored water.

The kids in the study ranged in age from 2 months to almost 4 years old and results show parents in the nectar and placebo groups reporting perceived symptom improvements after giving their children one dose, 30 minutes before bedtime.
a closer look shows agave nectar outperforming the grape water when a comparison was made between the two.

Researchers say it's up to parents to determine how best to manage disruptive symptoms caused by an upper respiratory infection, but instituting the "placebo effect" could reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Lonzer agrees.

"Some of what we have to do is to teach parents that not everything needs to be treated because that can bleed over into those diseases that we're treating with antibiotics that really don't need antibiotics. It's another part of the education that you may just not have to treat everything," Lonzer said.

Complete findings for this study can be found in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.