Report highlights potential dangers of complementary and alternative medicines for children

In my evidence-based book on alternative medicine, Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely, I wrote a cautionary chapter on the risks and dangers of many alternative therapies and natural medications in children in which we concluded, “In general, we believe that alternative medicine isinappropriate for children. The potential risks are too high. Until high-quality studies show clearlythat a particular alternative therapy is safe and effectivefor children, that therapy should be avoided.” Now a new report highlights the many potential dangers of complementary and alternative medicines for children.

The Chicago Tribune reports, “A growing number of parents are treating their kids’ colds or chronic illnesses with herbs, vitamins, acupuncture and other complementary approaches that are touted as ‘natural’ and therefore less likely to have side effects.”

However, the Tribune adds, “complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies … have not been well studied in children.” Moreover, a “recent report highlighted the potential dangers of CAM use, which can include adverse effects ranging from constipation to vomiting and pain.”

We conclude our chapter by writing:

Children should never be given herbal remedies orvitamin megadoses in the belief that they are saferthan pharmaceuticals. We know too little about what works and what doesn’t and about the appropriate preparation and proper dosage for age and bodyweight to risk trying such potentially dangerous products as herbal remedies on our children.

Children are not just miniature versions of adults. If you are thinking of trying any alternative remedywith your children, first talk with their physician or primary health care provider.

Keep in mindthat many minor illnesses play an important role in early childhood development. They challenge thebody and help build the immune system we need as healthy adults. Compromise the immune system in a child, and you may have an adult with a chronic condition that could readily have been avoided by letting a child’s minor illness run its natural course.

Parents might limit their exploration of alternative treatments to those that do not alter the body’schemistry — such as acupressure or massage.

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