Kids and (un)complementary alternative medicine: A bad combo

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The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming very common among children, especially those who have been diagnosed with chronic health conditions such as asthma, says a new study. But your child s pediatrician is not likely to inquire about these practices, and parents may not provide this information voluntarily either, increasing the potential for harmful interactions with conventional treatments.

According to the study in Pediatrics, of the 926 Canadian parents surveyed, half said their children had used CAM therapies at the same time they were taking conventional drugs, 10 percent tried alternative therapies before turning to conventional treatments and five percent used CAM in place of conventional medicine. In the United States, a survey found that one in nine children had used CAM therapies to treat a health condition.

Dr. Sunita Vohra, lead author of the study and a pediatrician who is chair of the section on integrated medicine for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says, Given the rate of use, we would like to encourage all health care providers to ask about complementary therapies and we encourage all parents to tell. In many cases, it s not discussed because parents think doctors won t support them, but it s far better to have an open discussion. Ultimately, this open discussion will lead to the integration of alternative therapies and conventional medical treatments.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan was disturbed by these findings: So-called complementary medicines have proven to be almost entirely worthless as treatments, and frequently harmful. This fact needs to be discussed by pediatricians, who largely fail to consider such potentially dangerous products when discussing their patients care with the parents. We strongly discourage parents from undertaking what amounts to an experimental approach to dealing with their childrens ailments.