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Can Cough Remedy Lead to Alcoholism?

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Q. I want to respond to your reader who wanted to know why you would disagree with using bourbon as an effective cough suppressant for children.

When I was a child, my mother would give me a tablespoon of whiskey when I had a stomachache. Today, at the age of 42, guess what I am? Yep, an alcoholic (in recovery thank my higher power).

Was the remedy the cause of my alcoholism? I can't help but wonder. A child should never be given alcohol. Period.

A. We’ve heard from readers on both sides of this issue. One reminisced: “My grandparents used the same cough remedy in the 1930's--bourbon, honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I still use it.”

Pediatricians caution parents not to use cough medicines for young children (under 6) because there is no evidence that they work. That is especially true of alcohol-containing cough medicines, home-made or over the counter.

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My dad used to give my brother, sister and me a hot toddy of bourbon, honey and lemon juice in warm water to help us sleep when we had a cold. I am not an alcoholic and do not drink and never have.

I would like to make a comment about the whiskey mixture for colds leading to alcoholism. That is pure rubbish. My mother made me drink her whiskey/sugar/hot water concoction every time I got sick with anything. I considered it another bad-tasting medicine. I drink very little alcohol today because it was forced on me as a child. I hated it then and I still do. Even liquid medicine is a challenge for me now.

I believe this discussion started with someone sending in a cough remedy of equal parts of bourbon, honey, and lemon.

When my children were young, I made them a cough syrup of equal parts honey and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Worked like a charm, and they'd fake a cough to get some occasionally--not a problem.

Never thought about adding alcohol, as alcohol only exacerbates my cold symptoms.

Other good cough remedies are plain honey, and hot salsa is particularly effective, breaking up congestion as well.

For the same effect, you could replace the ethanol component with apple cider vinegar.

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