More parents are using alternative medicines and treatments to treat their own medical problems and those of their children. But using alternative medicine to treat children isn’t always safe even if a particular therapy isn’t harmful for adults. According to a recent study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, using complementary and alternative medicine in children can be risky.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Children: Is It Safe?
Researchers in Melbourne, Australia looked at the number of adverse reactions among children using complementary and alternative medicine over a two year period. They found 39 instances of bad responses to these treatments. More disturbingly, one out of three of these reactions were serious enough to be life-threatening – and some were fatal.
Some of the adverse reactions stemmed from substituting an alternative treatment when a child needed a conventional medicine. Others were allergic reactions and malnutrition and stunted growth in kids from restrictive dietary changes.
Using Alternative Medicine in Kids
Parents sometimes forget that children are physiologically different from adults. An herb or high-dose vitamin that an adult can easily metabolize may present problems for children. Most alternative treatments are tested on adults, not children, so giving these treatments to kids is entering uncharted territory. Parents often assume because these treatments are “natural” that they’re not harmful. Not so – especially for children.
Using alternative medicine in children that doesn’t involve giving oral medication, such as acupressure or massage, is less likely to cause problems than using an herb or mega-doses of a vitamin. Dietary changes can also be problematic for kids who need a nutritionally balanced diet because they’re actively growing. Herbs and nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so you don’t know the quality of what you’re giving a child even if the treatment is generally safe.
Before Using Alternative Medicine for Children
Before giving a child a complementary or alternative remedy, talk to your child’s doctor and make sure it’s safe – and that you’re giving the right amount. Don’t substitute an herb or dietary supplement as an alternative to an antibiotic or other medication in a child without discussing it with your child’s pediatrician first.
Find a pediatrician who’s open-minded and well-versed in alternative remedies to ensure that your child gets the best guidance – both conventional and alternative. Complementary and alternative treatments have their value, but it’s important to be cautious about what goes into a child’s body.
Medscape.com. “Complementary, Alternative Medicine Linked to Adverse Events in Children”