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Alternative and complementary medicine increasingly used to treat children

Student in front of Clocktower

Wednesday 22 June 2011 10:35am

The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as probiotics, herbal treatments and osteopathy, for children has almost doubled in the past decade, according to new research.

Head of the University of Otago, Christchurch’s Paediatric Department, Associate Professor Andrew Day, researched the use of probiotics among patients of a paediatric outpatient service.

He found 67 per cent of patients had been given CAM.

This was almost double the number of patients using CAM compared to a similar study in 2002.

CAM therapies include traditional Chinese medicine, herbalism, homeopathy, aromatherapy, chiropractic, massage, nutritional therapies, osteopathy, probiotics and reflexology.

Associate Professor Day and his team found the most commonly used CAMs were probiotics and nutritional supplements.

The main conditions patients were receiving treatment for were reflux and constipation.

Associate Professor Day says that rising acceptance of CAM has led to increasingly widespread usage in children. Although this study was conducted in Sydney, Australia, the results are relevant to New Zealand.

Many parents used CAM for their child in combination with conventional medical treatment to deal with chronic conditions.

Some used CAM to deal with side-effects of their child’s condition or medication, as well as feeling dissatisfied with traditional treatments available.

Of those who used CAM, two thirds said it was effective for their child.

CAM was also seen as inexpensive and with few side-effects.

Many parents tried CAM on the advice of friends and family.

However doctors or other health professionals had suggested the use of CAM in almost half of all cases (45%). Furthermore, three-quarters of the parents had advised their doctors of the use of the CAM for their child.

Associate Professor Day says many people were unaware of the safety of some CAM and advertising and word of mouth did not disclose dangers. It was the responsibility of clinicians to talk to patients about possible dangers.

(All information in release attributable to Associate Professor Day.)

For further information, contact

Associate Professor Andrew Day
University of Otago, Christchurch
Tel 64 3 3640747

Kim Thomas
Senior Communications Advisor
Mob 027 222 6016

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