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For kids’ coughs, silence is golden and sweet


5 Star

For kids’ coughs, silence is golden and sweet

Our Review Summary

This story reports on the publication of a study in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association comparing honey to cough syrup or no treatment for upper respiratory infections in children ages 2 to 18. The study found a modest benefit to honey over no treatment and no difference between honey and cough medicine. The study is timely because of recent news about the potential harms of over-the-counter cough and cold preparations for younger children.  It is also "cold and flu season", and many parents are no doubt grappling with ways to provide symptom relief.  The story does a fine job of outlining the study, main findings, potential mechanism, and potential harms.  A bit more detail about how the study quantified the main findings (cough reduction) would be helpful to readers. By how much did the children cough less or sleep better? Did treatment result in a shorter duration of symptoms?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Other than to describe honey as "cheap" the story does not discuss costs. However, because honey is a food product, prices are dependent on the store and source.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify the benefits of honey. By how much did the children cough less and sleep better? Did this result in a shorter duration of symptoms?

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story explains that honey may cause an allergic reaction and that, rarely, it contains bacteria.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story adequately describes the design of the current study.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does not exaggerate the prevalence of common colds.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story does quote an independent expert in addition to the lead author of the study.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story mentions cough medicine as the alternative.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


Clearly honey and over-the-counter cough medicine are available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story mentions that using honey as a treatment is not a new idea.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 7 of 8 Satisfactory


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