Children with chronic health conditions are regularly treated with alternative therapies, according to a new Canadian study that suggests the use of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” in pediatrics is on the rise. Many children in the study took multivitamins or minerals, while others tried treatments like massage, aromatherapy and chiropractic manipulation.
“The use of [alternative medicine] is always going to be much higher in those kids who have a specific condition, particularly one not well-treated with conventional medicine, because parents are always asking, ‘What can I do to help my kid?’” said Dr. Joyce Frye, an integrative physician and epidemiologist with the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine, who did not work on the study. Because there is no clear definition of the term, any health care system, practice or product outside of Western medicine is generally grouped under the label of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM.
In the new study, published online in the journal Pediatrics on Monday, researchers asked more than 900 parents of children at two children’s hospitals in Canada whether their children had ever used alternative medicine and, if so, how. The patients were being treated in cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, oncology or respiratory clinics.
Almost half of the parents reported that their child had used an alternative therapy at the same time that he or she was undergoing conventional medical treatment. Nearly 10 percent of parents said they’d turned to alternative medicine before seeking conventional treatment for their child’s condition, and 5 percent used CAM in lieu of conventional medicine.