January 2013

Integrative Therapy Use May Be Common Among Children

A new study suggests that the use of integrative therapies among children may be high.

Children are vulnerable to certain illnesses and infections for several reasons. First, children do not have fully developed immune systems until they are about 7-8 years old. Because the immune system helps the body fight against diseases and infections, children have an increased risk of developing conditions, such as whooping cough, diarrhea, ear infections, chickenpox, croup and food allergies, compared to adults.

Most integrative therapies have not been well-studied in children. Safety in children has not been proven for most therapies. Therefore, parents and caregivers should talk to their children's pediatricians before trying integrative therapies.

In a recent study, researchers surveyed the parents of patients at two Canadian children's hospitals, one in the west and one in central Canada, on their use of integrative therapies.

The researchers found that integrative therapy use was significantly higher for patients in the western hospital at 71 percent of those surveyed, compared to 42 percent in the central hospital. The most commonly used products included multivitamins, herbal products, homeopathic remedies, massage, aromatherapy, chiropractic and relaxation. Many integrative therapies were used alongside prescription medications without discussing them with their healthcare provider. The authors noted that 80 integrative therapy-related adverse effects were also reported.

The authors concluded that integrative therapy use among pediatric patients may be common making it increasingly important that healthcare providers discuss these therapies with children and their parents to prevent potential interactions and adverse effects.

For more information about integrative therapies that have been studied in children, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

To comment on this story, please visit Natural Standard's blog.


  1. Adams D, Dagenais S, Clifford T, et al. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use by Pediatric Specialty Outpatients. Pediatrics. 2013 Jan 14. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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