Honey For Children: When To Introduce, Benefits And Precautions

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Honey for kids can be a healthy choice since it contains considerable amounts of phytochemicals and flavonoids that can impart several health benefits over time (1). The natural sweetener has moderate nutritional value and offers the same calories as refined sugar. However, honey may still be a better alternative to refined sugar since it also provides health-promoting compounds. You can use honey in food and home remedies to alleviate certain health issues and promote general health.

Read on as we tell you about the nutritional composition of honey, the right age to give honey to children, and different ways you can give honey to children.

When Can You Give Honey To Children?

Honey is nutritious, but should only be introduced to the children after they are one year old. This is to avoid infant botulism, an illness that may occur due to the consumption of honey by children below the age of one year.

Honey contains spore-forming bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that can multiply in the intestine (2). The bacteria releases toxins that can irritate the little one’s gut since infants have an underdeveloped digestive system that cannot fight off clostridium spores.

Honey is, however, safe for children above one year as their digestive system is mature enough to expel the bacteria through the body (3). However, use it as a replacement to refined sugar but not in addition to it.

Nutritional Value Of Honey

The nutritional value of 100g of honey is as given in the table (4).

NutrientsAmount
Energy304kcal
Carbohydrate82.4g
Glucose35.75g
Fructose40.94
Potassium52mg

8 Benefits Of Honey For Kids

Besides being a sweetener, honey offers some health benefits too.

  1. Energy-dense: A teaspoon of honey gives approximately 20-30 calories. It can be added to the child’s meals to meet their total calorie requirement. If you give honey to your child, choose low GI honey like acacia, which will support their overall health (5).
  1. Supports healing: Honey is known for its healing properties. Its antimicrobial and wound-repair properties are known to help in treating lesions, insect bites, burns, boils, and sores. A mixture of honey with beeswax and olive oil might help in treating damaged skin and conditions such as psoriasis or atopic dermatitis in children (6).
  1. Antiviral properties: Pure honey has bactericidal and antiviral properties against pathogenic bacteria and enteropathogens. These qualities are the likely reason for honey’s use in Ayurvedic medicine, especially for treating cough and cold. Controlled consumption of honey is known to have the potential to prevent tooth problems like tooth decay (5).
  1. Anti-inflammatory properties: Owing to its proven antioxidant activity, honey is considered a natural medicine for treating inflammatory conditions like sore throat, asthma, mucositis, gastroenteritis, etc (7) (8).
  1. Antioxidant and antibiotic properties: Natural honey has antioxidant and antibiotic effects. Its radical scavenging property has been imparted to it by phenols whereas its antibiotic properties are imparted by inhibine. These health promoting properties of honey has made it the most widely food item amongst infants and children (9).
  1. Prebiotic properties: Honey works as a prebiotic. Honey added to buttermilk or curd makes a good pre-probiotic combination which helps maintain healthy gut microbiome in kids (10).
  1. Relieves gastric reflux: If a child is suffering from GERD, then honey can be used for relief. The intake of honey rectifies this condition by coating the esophagus and stomach lining. This prevents the upward flow of food and gastric juice and thus provides relief. It further stimulates the tissues on the sphincter and thus assists in the regrowth thereby reducing the chances of acid reflux.
  1. Relieves constipation and diarrhea: Constipation and diarrhea are not uncommon in kids. So if they suffer from either, raw manuka honey can be taken on an empty stomach to get some relief.

Despite its several benefits, probably the most widespread medicinal use of honey is for the treatment of cough and cold.

Honey For Cough And Cold In Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against the use of OTC drugs for cough and cold for children under four years of age, unless directed by a physician or pediatrician (11). Natural honey is known for its antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, due to which people use honey as a natural remedy for cold and cough.

It is believed that pasteurized honey given before bedtime provides some relief from the symptoms of cough and cold in children aged over one year (12) (13).

Honey is also said to improve the quality of sleep in children.

Ways To Give Honey To A Child

Introduce honey in a child’s diet gradually. Doing so will give you time to check for any probable allergic reactions. It will also give your child adequate time to adapt to the taste and texture of honey.

Here are a few ways you can replace refined sugar with honey:

  • Add honey to oatmeal for enhancing the flavor of the dish.
  • Instead of adding sugar, add honey to sweeten the milk.
  • Spread it on bread toast.
  • Mix yogurt and honey to make a delectable side dish.
  • If your children like to have the smoothie sweet, you may add honey in it instead of sugar.
  • Spread honey on pancakes and waffles.
  • Use it as a flavoring agent or/and as a substitute for sugar in baked foods.

Discontinue serving honey to the child, if you notice side effects such as breathing problems, muscle weakness, and constipation.

Precautions To Follow

Before consuming honey, it is necessary to ensure that its purity remains intact. Here is what you can do for that.

  • Do not serve too much honey to children. Honey is high on calories and contains free sugars like fructose, which on over-consumption, might lead to undesired weight gain, dental caries, and gastric issues (14). So, practice moderation in use.
  • Check the manufacturing date and contents mentioned in the label.
  • Do not keep it in the open without a lid, as it may get contaminated by insects and dust.
  • Store the honey bottle in a cool place.

Try and use the honey within a month or two of getting it, even though it stays fine and useful long after that.

Which Is Better: Raw Honey Or Processed Honey?

Raw honey contains nutrients in its original form but also has natural toxins such as grayanotoxins, which can cause honey poisoning. The symptoms of honey poisoning include low blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting.

However, when the honey is processed, the toxins get diluted and may not have any severe effect on the body. Processed honey is also free of pollen grains and dust particles.

This suggests that processed honey has fewer risks compared to raw honey, but the nutritional value of raw honey makes it superior to the processed one (15).

Honey can provide micronutrients that are usually missing in plain sugar, thus making honey a better alternative to refined sugar. Remember to introduce honey gradually so that your child can get used to the taste while their body adapts to the new food substance. Once the child begins to enjoy honey, you may make this natural sweetener a part of the child’s balanced diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much honey can my child have in a day?

According to AAP, children aged two years and above should consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day (16). Since children eat several things, such as pre-packaged foods containing added sugar, keep a strict check on how much sugar your child consumes and adjust the quantity you add to their food accordingly.

2. Can honey cure flu in children?

Honey can’t cure or treat flu. However, it could relieve bothersome flu symptoms such as cough and sore throat. Experts recommend using honey to relieve cough. However, they remind parents not to use honey for babies under 12 months of age (17).

Does your child like honey? How do you give it to them? Do share your experience with us in the comment section below.

Key Pointers

  • Children above one year of age can consume moderate amounts of honey as it is high in natural sugar.
  • Honey is an energy-dense food with antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic properties that can promote overall health in the long run.
  • Parents can use honey in common home remedies to treat ailments, such as cough and cold.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Visweswara Rao Pasupuleti et al., Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits;National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2017)
2. Botulism; Health Issues; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics (2018)
3. Can I Feed My Baby Honey?; Kids Health From Nemours (2018)
4. Honey; Food Data Central; USDA
5. Sultan Ayoub Meo et al., Role of honey in modern medicine; National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2016)
6. Noori S.Al-Waili, Topical application of natural honey, beeswax and olive oil mixture for atopic dermatitis or psoriasis: partially controlled, single-blinded study; Researchgate (2004)
7. MG Miguel et al., Honey as a Complementary Medicine; National Biotechnology Information (2017)
8. Soad K. Al Jaouni et al., Effects of Honey on Oral Mucositis among Pediatric Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemo/Radiotherapy Treatment at King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2017)
9. Abdulwahid Ajibola et al., Nutraceutical values of natural honey and its contribution to human health and wealth; National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2012)
10. Tahereh Eteraf-Oskouei and Moslem Najafi, Traditional and Modern Uses of Natural Honey in Human Diseases: A Review; National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2013)
11. Cough and Cold Medicine – Not for Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
12. Ran D. Goldman; Can Fam Physician (2014); Honey for treatment of cough in children
13. Ran D Goldman and Canadian Paediatric Society, Drug Therapy and Hazardous Substances Committee; Treating cough and cold: Guidance for caregivers of children and youth; National Centre for Biotechnology Information (2011)
14. Sugar Intake in Infants, Children and Adolescents; ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition
15. The Risks of Eating Raw Honey; Food Safety Topics; Centre for Food Safety; The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
16. Added sugar in kids’ diets: How much is too much?; AAP
17. Symptom Relief for Viral Illnesses; CDC
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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