(Tribune News Service) -- You may want to have honey on hand the next time you catch a cold.

That’s because honey has been shown to provide better cough relief than some over-the-counter drugs, Oxford University researchers said in findings published Wednesday in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.

“Honey is more effective than usual care alternatives for improving (upper respiratory tract infection) symptoms, particularly cough frequency and cough severity,” according to the scientists.

Researchers said they reviewed 14 past studies about upper respiratory tract infections, also known as common colds. Symptoms can include runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat and coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Four of the studies examined comparisons between honey and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that can be used to relieve coughs, according to the U.S. government. It’s sold at pharmacies under several brand names — including Benadryl and Unisom — and is combined with other ingredients in some cold medicines.

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In their findings, Oxford scientists said honey was “significantly better than” diphenhydramine at improving coughing. The results came from studies that included 385 participants, data show.

But honey was “not significantly better” at cough relief when compared to another class of medicines, called dextromethorphan, according to a review of two studies with a combined 137 patients. Dextromethorphan is used to suppress coughs and can be found on pharmacy shelves in products such as Robitussin and Mucinex, the U.S. National Library of Medicine said.

Scientists reviewing the common cold studies also found “comparisons with placebo are more limited, and require more high quality, placebo controlled trials.”

Anyone sick with a cold should talk to a pharmacist or doctor about the best medicines for them, according to health officials.

“Over-the-counter medicines may provide temporary relief of symptoms, but they will not cure your illness,” the CDC said on its website.

The CDC includes honey on its list of possible ways to suppress coughs. Other tips for feeling better from a cold include getting enough rest, breathing in steam and using saline spray, according to the CDC.

Both health officials and researchers cautioned against using antibiotics for cold relief. They don’t help patients get better and can lead to infections that are resistant to bacteria, experts said.

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