Parents' and primary healthcare practitioners' perspectives on the safety of honey and other traditional paediatric healthcare approaches

Raekha Kumar, Ava Lorenc, Nicola Robinson, Mitch Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (SciVal)


BACKGROUND: Traditional and complementary healthcare approaches (TCA) are widely used for children, often because of perceived safety. Honey is a traditional remedy for upper respiratory tract symptoms in infants. Health officials currently advise limiting honey use because of the risk of botulism.

OBJECTIVE: This paper discusses honey as a traditional healthcare approach for children in a multi-ethnic community, and parents' and primary healthcare practitioners' (PHPs) perceptions of its safety.

DESIGN: As part of a larger study exploring beliefs about TCA, this paper focuses on perceived safety and use of honey, using data extracted for detailed analysis. Eleven parent focus groups (n= 92) and 30 interviews with PHPs were conducted. Qualitative data analysis used the Framework approach.

SETTING: London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow

RESULTS: TCA, particularly home remedies, dietary and religious approaches were popular for children. Honey was a particularly common TCA, reportedly used by 27 (29%) parents for their children. Honey was believed to be traditional, acceptable, accessible, natural and safe. It was most commonly used for respiratory tract symptoms and administered with hot water and lemon juice. PHPs were more concerned about the safety of TCA than parents. Almost half (40%) of PHPs mentioned the use of honey for children, few perceived it as a 'treatment' or were concerned about botulism. Others were aware of the risks and some reported challenges in communicating risk to parents.

CONCLUSION: TCA are commonly used for children, honey in particular for respiratory tract symptoms. Parents and some PHPs appear unaware of the risk of botulism from honey use in infants. Healthcare practitioners should ask routinely about the use of honey and other TCA, and consider different parental belief systems in ethnically diverse populations. Further research is required on the use and efficacy of honey for infants, to raise awareness of its benefits and risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-43
Number of pages10
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number5
Early online date9 Dec 2010
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


  • Apitherapy
  • Attitude to Health
  • Botulism
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Parents
  • Pediatrics
  • Physicians, Family
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Respiratory Tract Infections


Dive into the research topics of 'Parents' and primary healthcare practitioners' perspectives on the safety of honey and other traditional paediatric healthcare approaches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this