After a common cold, upper respiratory tract infection, or pneumonia, some patients develop a persistent cough, lasting weeks or even months. This so-called persistent post-infectious cough (PPC) is rather common, accounting for up to one in four cases of chronic cough (Chung KF. Lancet 2008). The etiology of PPC is usually not identified in individual cases, but viruses (especially RSV, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus and influenza virus) have been frequently implicated.
Treatment for PPC can be difficult, as the cough is often intractable. Commonly used therapies include antihistamines, inhaled corticosteroids, oral corticosteroids, inhaled anticholinergics, narcotic cough syrups, beta agonist bronchodilators, cromolyn sodium, Phenergan, codeine, or dextromethorphan.
In a recently published study, the authors performed a double-blind randomized controlled trial comparing oral prednisolone, honey plus coffee, and guaifenesin. Smokers were excluded from the study. Treatment lasted one week, administered three times daily. The prednisolone group received 13.3 mg per dose, the honey plus coffee group received 20.8 g (about one tablespoon) of honey and 2.9 g of coffee (about 1/3 cup) per dose, and the guaifenesin group received 25 g per dose.
What were the results? As expected, the steroid treatment group significantly decreased the amount of coughing compared to the guaifenesin group. Surprisingly, the honey plus coffee treatment group outperformed both other regimens.
In summary, the combination of honey plus coffee may be an effective treatment regimen for persistent post-infectious cough. The exact mechanism of action of honey and coffee on cough reduction is unknown.