Honey is best for relieving non-severe symptoms of respiratory tract infections
Did you know that honey may be better than regular care, such as antibiotics or over-the-counter syrups and cough medicines, in relieving the symptoms of upper respiratory infections (URTIs), especially to calm a cough?
This has just been confirmed by science, through one of its most prestigious institutions, the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, in an investigation, which also highlights that these findings could help slow the spread of antibiotic resistance ( the ability of some pathogenic microorganisms to resist the effects of these drugs).
URTIs, which affect the sinuses and throat, include the common cold, sinusitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, and the flu, but if you have a high fever, a new and ongoing cough, or a loss or change in sense of smell or taste, it could be COVID-19, so see your doctor immediately, according to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
A STUDY THAT REVIEWS OTHER STUDIES
To reach this conclusion, researchers Hibatullah Abuelgasim, Charlotte Albury and Joseph Lee, from Oxford (www.ox.ac.uk), carried out a systematic review of information and bibliography in the databases and scientific and medical reference platforms such as Pubmed, Embase, Cab abstracts, LILACS, and Cochrane Library.
In their review, the scientists identified 1,345 unique records and included 14 studies on the effectiveness of honey in treating URTIs, which the researchers say have “a moderate risk of bias,” meaning a moderate chance of containing a systematic error or a deviations from the truth that cause your results to be incorrect.
They then subjected that information to a meta-analysis, a process by which data from different studies on the same topic are analyzed, and which usually provides more robust results than any study alone.
The systematic review and meta-analysis, considered the “yardstick” of evidence in the health sciences, were published in the scientific journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine.
“Most URTIs are due to a viral infection, and for people who are otherwise healthy, they tend to be self-limited and improve within about 14 days without treatment,” the researchers say.
BACTERIAL RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS
However, these infections are a common cause for the prescription of antibiotics, even though these drugs make little difference in the severity of symptoms, since viruses are not affected by antibiotics.
“As the global spectrum of antibiotic resistance looms, it is now more important than ever to have new treatments for URTIs that are effective and that clinicians can recommend,” says Hibatullah Abuelgasim, an Oxford medical student, who completed the study as part of your undergraduate research project at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.
The researchers analyzed studies that compared the effect of taking honey, with tea, pure or mixed with other ingredients, with the usual URTI care, consisting of antibiotics or syrups and over-the-counter cough medicines, or medically inert placebos ( substances without therapeutic action).
The studies involved in the review and meta-analysis compared symptoms such as severity of cough, frequency of cough, and duration of infection symptoms.
Thus Abuelgasim, Albury and Lee found that, compared to usual care, honey is associated with a significantly greater reduction in symptoms, specifically the severity and frequency of coughing.
“Honey has long been known as a traditional treatment for URTI symptoms, such as coughs and sore throats,” says Dr. Joseph Lee, researcher, beekeeper and GP, of the Nuffield Department.
HONEY TO TREAT COUGH IN THE UK
It points out that since 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) recommend using honey to treat symptoms of acute cough in adults and children aged five years and over and “Our work increases the evidence base” on which that recommendation is based.
Furthermore, the NHS warns that children should not be given honey until they are over one year old.
“Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for URTIs, even when they can be fairly certain that they might not offer any clinical benefit, often due to a lack of alternative treatments and a sincere desire to help patients feel better,” says the Charlotte Albury, a health researcher in the Nuffield Department.
“This research provides us with good-quality evidence that can help clinicians be confident in suggesting people to use honey,” he stresses.
“Honey is cheap, it is readily available and many people probably have it in their pantry, so it is worth trying it up front to alleviate the symptoms of a URTI, although if the symptoms get worse or if you feel very bad, you should get in touch with your GP, ”explains Lee.
The Oxford researchers recommend more high-quality placebo-controlled trials, addressing symptoms other than cough, as the assessments of risk of bias in the reviewed studies were variable, and honey interventions and 'usual care' treatments “They were different, which may affect the strength of the evidence .