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COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Use of complementary and alternative medicine in healthy children and children with chronic medical conditions in Germany

Sven Gottschling, Benjamin Gronwald, Sarah Schmitt, Christine Schmitt, Alfred Längler, Eberhard Leidig, Sascha Meyer, Annette Baan, M Ghiath Shamdeen, Jens Berrang, Norbert Graf
Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2013, 21: S61-9
23578919

OBJECTIVES: Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in children is common and probably increasing. However little is known about differences between healthy and chronically ill children with a focus on prevalence, reasons for use/non-use, costs, adverse effects and socio-demographic factors.

DESIGN: A questionnaire-based survey with 500 participants visiting the outpatient clinic of the University Children's Hospital Homburg, Germany was conducted over a 4-week period in 2004. Recruitment was stopped when 500 questionnaires were handed out in total.

RESULTS: Of the 405 (81%) respondents (242 with chronic conditions, 163 healthy children incidentally visiting the hospital for minor ailments) 229 (57%) reported lifetime CAM use (59% with chronic conditions versus 53% healthy children). Among CAM users the most prevalent therapies were homeopathy (25%), herbal remedies (8%), anthroposophic medicine (7%), vitamin preparations (6%) and acupuncture (5%). The main reasons for use were to strengthen the immune system, physical stabilisation and to increase healing chances/maintain health. Socio-demographic factors associated with CAM use were tertiary education (mother: p=0.017; father: p>0.001), higher family income (p=0.001) and being Protestant (p=0.01). Expectations towards CAM were high and most parents would recommend certain CAM (94%). 79% of the users informed a physician about CAM use. Side effects were rarely reported (4%), minor and self-limiting.

CONCLUSIONS: Clinical care and the physician-patient relation would benefit from an enhanced understanding of CAM and a greater candidness towards the parental needs. The safety and efficacy especially of CAM with high prevalence rates should be determined in rigorous basic and clinical researches.

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