Complementary medicines can be dangerous for children

Dec 23, 2010

Complementary medicines (CAM) can be dangerous for children and can even prove fatal, if substituted for conventional medicine, indicates an audit of kids' CAM treatment published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

But parents often misguidedly think CAM treatments are better for their children because they are "natural" and therefore less likely to have harmful side effects, say the authors.

They base their findings on monthly reporting of adverse events associated with CAM to the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit between 2001 and 2003.

During this period, 46 instances of adverse events associated with complementary medicine treatment - including 4 deaths - were reported. But only 40 questionnaires were completed, and one of these was a duplicate, leaving 39 cases.

Reports highlighted several areas of concern, including: the substitution of conventional medicine with ; changes to medication regimens made by CAM practitioners; and dietary restriction in the belief that this would cure symptoms.

In over three quarters of cases (77%) the adverse events were considered to be probably or definitely related to CAM, and in almost half of cases (44%) the paediatricians said the child had been harmed by a failure to use conventional treatment in favour of CAM therapies.

The reports included children of all ages from birth up to the age of 16, and ranged in severity. Almost two thirds of the reported cases (64%) were rated as severe, life threatening or fatal.

The adverse events reported ranged from constipation, bleeding and pain to , mouth ulcers, seizures, vomiting, stunted growth, infections, malnutrition and death.

All four reported deaths were related to the substitution of conventional treatment with CAM.

These included the case of an 8 month old child admitted to hospital with malnutrition and septic shock following naturopathic treatment with a rice milk diet from the age of 3 months for the treatment of constipation.

One of the other deaths involved a 10 month old child who developed after being treated with homeopathy and a restricted diet for chronic eczema.

Two of the adverse events were associated with overdoses of medicinal CAM, which the authors say parents often do not consider in the belief that the products are natural and harmless.

Parents sought to treat anything from constipation to clotting disorders, and diabetes to cerebral palsy.

"Discussions with families about CAM use may empower them to talk about any medication changes suggested by a CAM practitioner before altering or ceasing the medication," suggest the authors.

"However, many of the adverse events associated with failure to use convention medicine resulted from the family's belief in CAM and determination to use it despite medical advice," they add.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research points to way to improve heart treatment

Mar 10, 2010

Current drugs used to treat heart failure and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) have limited effectiveness and have side effects. New basic science findings from a University of Iowa study suggest a way that treatments could ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sepp
not rated yet Dec 28, 2010
Dangerous indeed - to the pharma profit model that is.

The study was a cherry-pick: only 39 cases were examined.

In only two of the cases, there was a serious reaction and in no case was a death attributed directly to those apparently so dangerous complementary medicines.

Instead, the study points out that "adverse events [were] associated with failure to use convention medicine".

Comparing that with how many deaths are associated with conventional medicine each year (more than 100.000 in the US alone) we can understand what this article is all about.

It one-sidedly targets CAM, and it does it quite badly.

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.