Homeopathic remedies are commonly given to children. In fact, one study found that children comprised one-third of all the patients seen by homeopaths. But, is homeopathy safe and effective in children?
Homeopathy is often recommended for ear infections in children. Before they are three years old, most children will get at least one ear infection. While at least three-quarters of all ear infections in children go away on their own, some infections can progress to more serious conditions, most of which can be treated effectively with antibiotics.
Given the high rate of spontaneous remission of these ear infections, use of homeopathic remedies frequently appears to be successful. Some then claim that homeopathy cures ear infections.
However, a 2000 review of all relevant research found “there is no published evidence to support this claim.” This review uncovered only two studies involving homeopathy and ear infections. Even though both studies showed positive results for the homeopathic remedies, they were neither blinded nor properly randomized.
The research design therefore made it impossible to place any confidence in these results.
Since that time, we located only one additional study, a pilot study in which the authors stressed that “it is impossible to draw conclusions from a preliminary study such as this.”
The homeopathy and placebo groups did not have significant differences in most outcomes measured, although better symptom relief was recorded by parents for the children receiving homeopathy.
Overall, the evidence remains scant that homeopathy provides any benefit for children with ear infections. Similarly, results of better-designed research has found homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo in treating a variety of other conditions.
Parents considering treating their children with alternative therapies should keep in mind that many alternative medicine practitioners have little conventional medical training.
In Massachusetts, half of the homeopaths involved in one study had no medical training, and their training in homeopathy ranged from twenty years to three weeks.
All practitioners should know their limitations and when to seek input from others. However, the Massachusetts homeopaths stated they would, on average, treat a child for three to four months before concluding that their therapies were not working.
Worse yet, only half of the non-physician homeopaths would refer a two-week-old child with a fever of 101.5 degrees to a physician even though any newborn with such a high fever needs to be seen immediately by a physician.
You can read more about the safety and efficacy of homeopathy in our chapter on homeopathy in Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely. Signed copies are available here.
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