Prevalence and characteristics of complementary and alternative medicine use by Australian children

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2017, 53 (8), pp. 782 - 787
Issue Date:
2017-08-01
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© 2017 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians) Aim: This study was conducted to evaluate the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among Australian children within the previous 12 months. Methods: Parents with children up to the age of 18 years were recruited from online parenting groups. Questions addressed demographic factors, socio-economic status, conventional health service use, including vaccination status and use of CAM. Results: A total of 149 parents responded to the study of which 73.8% (n = 110) had taken their child to visit a CAM practitioner or given their child a CAM product in the previous 12 months. The two most frequently visited CAM practitioners were naturopath/herbalist (30.4%) and chiropractor (18.4%). The most commonly used products were vitamins/minerals (61.7%), and herbal medicine (38.8%). Children had also consulted with a general practitioner (89.8%), community health nurse (31.29%) and paediatrician (30.3%) over the same period. A total of 52% of parents did not disclose their child's use of CAM to their medical provider. Children's vaccination status was less likely to be up-to-date if they visited a CAM practitioner (OR 0.16; CI 0.07, 0.36; P < 0.001) or used a CAM product (OR 0.25; CI 0.09, 0.64; P = 0.004). Conclusion: Despite a lack of high quality research for efficacy and safety, many children are using CAM products and practices in parallel with conventional health services, often without disclosure. This highlights the need to initiate conversations with parents about their child's use of CAM in order to ensure safe, coordinated patient care. The association between vaccine uptake and CAM use requires further investigation.
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