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Don't Give Kids Bourbon For Cough

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Q. I think you do your readers a disservice by failing to mention a very old but effective cough suppressant. The pediatrician told my mother about it in 1960, and I have used it on myself and for my own children--nighttime only--when no one can sleep.

I realize that this is susceptible to abuse, but used appropriately it is safe, effective and cheap.

The recipe: equal parts bourbon, honey, and lemon juice. One teaspoon for a 10 year old, and calibrate from there. If you disagree with using this concoction, I'd be quite interested in knowing why.


A. Hot toddies and other remedies containing alcohol have been popular treatments for coughs and colds for years. Decades ago, doctors may well have recommended such remedies. Most pediatricians nowadays discourage the use of alcohol in any treatments for children. They are especially susceptible to low blood sugar after consuming alcohol.

Parents are in a quandary these days because they have been told not to use drugstore cold and cough remedies for children under six. A nighttime cough, however, can keep everyone awake.

Some parents report that Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet can ease nighttime coughs. Socks protect the sheets. We heard from one reader, “Last night when the cough was getting a little too wild and the prescription didn't seem to be doing any good I decided to try Vicks on the feet. Long story short, it not only worked, it worked within minutes.”

Tea made with thyme or fennel from the kitchen spice shelf can also calm a cough. We offer several other approaches in our Guides to Cold Remedies and Unique Uses for Vicks.
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My 4-year-old triplets have an ongoing croupy cough and wheeze. I just can't get them totally well. Started giving them 1/2 dose of Airborne and also using Elderberry Juice which comes in a dropper bottle. I use 1 dropper in 1T of water. Label says it is 20% alcohol. Is this not a good thing to give to my children?

After having my first baby, a well-meaning but ignorant person told me how great whiskey was for calming crying babies and lulling them to sleep. I had never said that my baby had trouble sleeping or was fussy; she apparently dispenses this unsolicited advice to all new parents. In the five years since then, I have seen news reports of infants dying because their parents put alcohol on their pacifiers or in their bottles.

As an asthmatic person, I am very prone to bronchitis and have used the method of rubbing Vick's on my feet, donning socks and going to bed and I can attest to the FACT that I did not cough all night long. I have told several friends about this after comments of not getting any sleep, for coughing, when they had a cold. They come back and tell me they cannot believe that this remedy works so well. They are amazed that something so simple can give them a good nights sleep.

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