• Nearly 12 percent of American children (younger than age 18) have used or taken a complementary health product or practice.
• Few studies have examined the effects of complementary health approaches for children.
• Tell all your child’s health care providers about any complementary health approaches your child uses or takes. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your child’s health. This info will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Patterns of the Use of Complementary Health Approaches in Children
• The most frequently used complementary health approaches for children are natural products such as herbs and botanicals (vitamins and minerals that omit in the survey) and chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation.
• For children, complementary health approaches for back or neck pain, head or chest colds, anxiety or stress, other musculoskeletal problems, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and insomnia.
Children who use complementary health products or practices vary in age and health status. For example, other studies on use show that:
• Up to 10 percent of infants are given teas or herbal supplements, usually for fussiness or stomach problems.
• Between 21 and 42 percent of children take multivitamins, according to a 2012 study. Children aged 2 to 8 were the most likely to take vitamins. However, they were also the only age group who had nutritionally adequate diets whether they took multivitamins or not.
• Teens are particularly liable to use products that claim to enhance sports performance, energy levels, or weight loss.
• More than half of children with chronic medical conditions use some form of complementary health approach, usually along with conventional care.
Safety of Complementary Health Approaches for Children
There are no testings for many complementary health products and practices for safety or effectiveness in children. It’s important to note that children may react differently than adults do to these approaches. Also, Federal regulations for dietary supplements are less strict than those for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Some nutritional supplements may be of poor quality or contain contaminants, including drugs, chemicals, or metals.
If You’re Considering a Complementary Health Approach for Your Child
• Make sure that your child has received an accurate diagnosis from a licensed health care provider.
• Educate yourself about the potential risks and benefits of complementary health approaches.
• Ask your child’s healthcare provider about the effectiveness and possible risks of methods you’re considering or already using for your children.
• Remind your teenagers to discuss with their health care providers any complementary health approaches they may use.
• Don’t use any health product or practice that hasn’t been proven safe and efficient to replace or delay conventional care or prescribed medications.
• If a health care provider suggests a complementary health approach, don’t increase the dose or duration of the treatment beyond what is recommended (more isn’t necessarily better).
• If you have any concerns about the effects of a complementary approach, contact your child’s health care provider.
• As with all medications, store herbal and other dietary supplements out of sight and reach of children.
• Tell all your child’s health care providers about any complementary health approaches your child uses. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your child’s health. This information or help will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Selecting a Complementary Health Practitioner
If you’re looking for a complementary health practitioner for your child, be as cautious and meticulous in your exploration as you are when looking for standard care. Be sure to ask about the practitioners:
• Experience in coordinating care with traditional medical providers
• Experience in delivering care to children
• Education, training, and license. Some states have licensing requirements for certain complementary health practitioners, such as chiropractors, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists.
For More Information
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides data on NCCAM and complementary health methods, including papers and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical findings. The Clearinghouse does not give medical information, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.