Objective: To determine the prevalence and reasons for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among children in primary pediatric care practice in the Washington, DC area.
Design: Cross-sectional survey of parents at 4 Children's National Medical Center Pediatric Research Network (PRN) practices from July 1998 through November 1998. Survey information included demographics, child health problems, satisfaction with health care, and CAM use over the past year.
Results: Parents completed 348 surveys. Forty percent (138) of parents were CAM users themselves, whereas 21% (72) had treated their child with CAM over the past year. Factors positively associated with child CAM use included parents' use of CAM (P <.0001); greater parent age (P =.0005); greater child age (P =.001); and complaints of frequent respiratory illnesses, asthma, headaches, and nosebleeds. Ethnicity and parental education were not associated with child CAM use. Over 50% of pediatric CAM users reported specific vitamin supplementation, whereas 25% used other nutritional supplements or elimination diets, and over 40% used herbal therapies. Thirty-two percent of CAM users had visited a CAM practitioner; 81% of pediatric CAM users would have liked to discuss it with their pediatrician, but only 36% did so.
Conclusion: Treatment of children with CAM is common and is frequently undertaken by parents without the knowledge or advice of their pediatrician.