(HealthDay News) — Giving young children agave nectar or a placebo treatment of flavored, colored water both appear to help reduce cough symptoms at night more than not giving any treatment, according to a new study. The findings were published online October 27 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Ian Paul, MD, of the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, and colleagues compared three treatment types among 120 children <4 years old who had a nighttime cough lasting less than a week that did not appear related to any other specific condition. The children were randomly placed in one of three groups: 40 children received no treatment, 40 were given a placebo, and 40 were given pasteurized agave nectar from Zarbees Inc. The parents reported children’s symptoms the night before and the night after the treatment.

The researchers found that children who took agave nectar and the placebo coughed less often and less severely than those who received nothing, as reported by their parents. Agave nectar showed no additional benefit over the placebo.

“The placebo effect demonstrated by our study is important given the lack of alternatives, particularly among children <1 year old,” Paul told HealthDay. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently has no recommendations for treating a cough in children under 6 years old, he added. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not available for children <4 years old, and there is “little to no evidence” supporting their use in older children, he said.

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Zarbees Inc. provided funding for the study.

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