The term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to therapies including massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbology, homeopathy and more.

New research shows that children who regularly see specialists for chronic medical conditions are also using CAM at a high rate. The research was conducted by investigators at the Universities of Alberta and Ottawa, in Canada.

About 71 per cent of pediatric patients attending various specialty clinics at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton used CAM, while the rate of use at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa was 42 per cent. Nearly 20 per cent of the families who took part in the study said they never told their physician or pharmacist about concurrently using prescription and alternative medicine.

“The children in this study are often given prescription medicines,” says Sunita Vohra, a researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the U of Alberta and a pediatrician who works in the Department of Pediatrics and the School of Public Health at the U of A, “and many of these children used complementary therapies at the same time or instead of taking prescription medicine. We asked families if they would like to talk about the use of alternative medicine, more than 80 per cent of them said, ‘yes, please.'”

Vohra said the study identified a gap in communications in dealing with pediatric patients and their families.

These families are getting information about CAM from friends, family and the Internet,” Vohra said, “but a key place they should be getting this information from is their doctor or another member of their health-care team, who would know about possible drug interactions with prescription medicines.”

This research was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics.

Related articles:

• Research Looks at CAM Use by People with Chronic Disease

• U.S. Agency Launches Web Portal on Complementary Medicine