Image for Sweet relief: honey ‘more effective’ than over-the-counter medicines for colds and coughs

Sweet relief: honey ‘more effective’ than over-the-counter medicines for colds and coughs

Honey could offer more effective treatment for some respiratory infections than prescription medicines, according to a study

Honey could offer more effective treatment for some respiratory infections than prescription medicines, according to a study

The pharmaceutical industry has developed a host of treatments for sore throats, blocked noses and coughs, but a study suggests snuffling patients could get more relief from honey than antibiotics and over-the-counter medicines.

Physicians from Oxford University’s Medical School and Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences analysed existing data to evaluate the effectiveness of honey in treating illnesses that affect the nose, sinuses, pharynx or larynx.

Such maladies are referred to as upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), and include laryngitis and tonsillitis, as well as common colds.

The analysis included studies that compared the efficacy of honey with that of over-the-counter medicines and antibiotics.

“We found that honey likely improves URTI symptoms, with the strongest evidence in the context of cough frequency and cough severity,” they wrote in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. “When clinicians wish to prescribe for URTI, we would recommend honey as an alternative to antibiotics.”

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The study was motivated by concern that the over prescription of antibiotics is exacerbating antimicrobial resistance, which the World Health Organization said could threaten the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections.

“Upper respiratory tract infections are the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. Since the majority of URTIs are viral, antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate,” wrote the authors. “Antibiotic over prescription for upper respiratory tract infections exacerbates antimicrobial resistance. There is a need for effective alternatives to antibiotic prescribing.”

They added: “Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”

Image: Alexander Mils

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