12% of Kids Use Complementary/Alternative Medicine
Echinacea Most Common Complementary and Alternative Treatment Given to Children
Dec. 10, 2008 -- Thirty-eight percent of adults and 12% of children use
complementary and alternative medicine, new data from a nationwide government
The survey marks the first time information on the use of complementary and
alternative medicine (CAM) by children has been collected at the national
Researchers with the National Institutes of Health and the CDC asked more
than 23,000 adults about their use and 9,400 adults about their children’s use
of 36 non-vitamin or mineral CAM therapies, including herbal supplements,
acupuncture, visits to chiropractors, massage therapy, mediation, and even
“I think this study highlights the growing acceptance of many of these
therapies,” pediatrician Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, of Wake Forest University
School of Medicine, tells WebMD.
Author of the book, The Holistic Pediatrician, Kemper says many
treatments considered alternative just a few years ago, including probiotics
for gastrointestinal complaints, are now widely recommended for children.
12% of Kids Use CAM
According to the survey findings:
- 38% of adults and 12% of children 17 and under used some form of
complementary and alternative medicine in 2007.
- Children whose parents used CAM were five times more likely to use the
therapies (24%) than children whose parents did not use them.
- Echinacea, often used for colds, topped the list of oral supplements most
often given to children, followed by fish oil, omega-3, or DHA; combination
herb pills; and flaxseed oil or pills.
- Children’s use of CAM increased as their parents' education level
Use of CAM was higher among teenagers (16.4%) than among younger children
(10.7%), and white children were more likely to use CAM (12.8%) than black
(5.9%) and Hispanic (7.9%) children.
Regionally, children living in Western states were most likely to use CAM
(14.4%); those living in the South were least likely to use them (8.8%).
“Children are generally much healthier than adults, so 12% usage can be seen
as quite high,” says study co-author Richard L. Nahin, PhD, MPH, acting
director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s
(NCCAM’s) Division of Extramural Research.
CAM Usage Among Adults
The latest survey suggests that use of most complementary and alternative
medicine has neither increased nor declined significantly among adults over the
past six years, Nahin tells WebMD.
An exception was mind-body therapies like acupuncture, deep breathing,
meditation, massage therapy, and yoga, which were used by more adults in 2007
than in 2002.
As seen in earlier surveys, women were more likely than men to use CAM
therapies, and higher education and higher income was associated with higher
CAM usage among adults.
The survey also revealed that:
- CAM usage increased with the number of chronic health issues. Adults who
reported the most health problems were about 2.5 times more likely to use CAM
therapies than adults who reported no health problems.
- Fish oil, omega-3, or DHA topped the list of oral supplements used
most often by adults, followed by glucosamine (used for joint pain), echinacea,
flaxseed oil/pills, ginseng, combination herbal products, and ginkgo
- About 13% of adults said they practiced deep breathing, 9% practiced
meditation, and 6% practiced yoga. About 8% reported having therapeutic
massages or seeing a chiropractor during the previous year.
- Adults were more likely to use CAM when they could not afford conventional
- Back pain was the most frequently cited reason for using CAM among adults
(17%), followed by neck pain (6%), joint pain (5%), and arthritis (3.5%).