Pasteurized agave nectar and placebo were both perceived to be better by parents for treating nighttime cough and the resulting sleep difficulty in infants and toddlers than doing nothing at all, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Cough is a frequent symptom in children and one of the main reasons they visit a health care professional. Little evidence supports the use of over-the-counter medicine for acute cough. An alternative to treat cough is honey but children younger than 1 year are precluded from consuming honey because of concerns over infant botulism. Agave nectar has properties similar to honey but has not been associated with botulism.
Researchers Ian M. Paul, M.D., M.Sc., of the Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Penn., and colleagues compared treatment with agave nectar, placebo or no treatment at all on nighttime cough and the accompanying sleep disturbance in a group of 119 children who were randomized to one of the three treatment groups. The one-night study included children 2 to 47 months old who had nonspecific acute cough for seven days or less.
Study results indicate that agave nectar and placebo resulted in perceived symptom improvement by parents compared with no treatment, but agave nectar did not outperform placebo when a comparison was made between the two.
"Both physicians and parents want symptomatic relief for children with these common and annoying illnesses. The significant placebo effect found warrants consideration as health care providers and parents determine how best to manage the disruptive symptoms that occur in the setting of upper respiratory tract infections among young children. Placebo could offer some perceived benefit, although at a financial cost, while reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing," the study concludes.