Complementary and alternative medicine use in children with type 1 diabetes: a pilot survey of parents

Jennifer L Miller, Helen J Binns, Wendy J Brickman
Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing 2008, 4 (5): 311-4

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence and characteristics of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among children with diabetes.

DESIGN: Anonymous surveys were completed by guardians of children with diabetes attending an urban diabetes clinic over three months. The survey included demographics, parent and child CAM use (excluding vitamins), and perceived opinions of health providers about CAM use. The representativeness of the surveyed sample was evaluated and analyses examined associations with child CAM use.

RESULTS: Children in the analysis (N = 86, 33% response rate) were similar to the potential population for age, gender, insurance type, and age at diabetes diagnosis. Children analyzed were mean 10.9 years of age (SD 3.9), 56% male, 71% Caucasian, 83% privately insured, and 90% spoke English at home. Parents were 22% foreign born and 45% college graduates; 19% of children and 45% of parents had tried CAM. There were 30 CAM use occurrences among 16 children; 60% were CAM activities (ie, faith healing, chiropractic treatments, relaxation techniques) and 40% were CAM supplements (ie, herbs, nutritional supplements, herbal teas). Child CAM use was more common if a parent had used CAM (33% vs 6%; P = .002) and among children with foreign-born parents (37% vs 13%; P = .04). CAM was used to decrease diabetes complications and improve overall health. Parents were comfortable discussing CAM with the diabetes team and their child's primary care provider.

CONCLUSIONS: Children with diabetes were using CAM as an adjunctive therapy for diabetes. The diabetes healthcare team needs an increased awareness about CAM.

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