The use of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) is increasing. The aim was to characterise the use of CAM among patients in a paediatric department. All patients (aged 0-18 years), out-patients or hospitalised, in contact with the Department of Paediatrics, Odense University Hospital during a 2 week period in the autumn of 2001 were asked to participate. In total, 622 (92%) patients participated. The data were collected in an interviewer administered questionnaire during a short structured interview with the patient and parents. CAM was divided into herbal medicine (herbal drugs or dietary supplements) (HM), alternative therapy (AT) (i.e. acupuncture) or chiropractic (CHI). Of all patients, 53% had tried CAM at least once and 23% had tried CAM within the last month (15% HM, 7% AT and 2% CHI). There was no correlation between use of CAM and gender, age or if the patient was out-patient or hospitalised. The users were pre-school children. HM (Bio-Strath and Echinacea) was especially used to strengthen the immune system. Among AT, reflexological treatment was the most popular treatment. The most frequent users of CAM were patients with asthma, eczema or allergy plus patients suffering from gastrointestinal diseases or hospitalised for observation. More than 50% of the users experienced positive effects and 6% had side-effects from AM. Of the CAM users, 11% or 2% of the total paediatric population used CAM instead of conventional medicines.
Conclusion: Of the paediatric patients, 53% had tried complementary/alternative medicine, which was used as a supplement to conventional medicine although we did not know how long it was used. Paediatric patients should be interviewed about their use of complementary/alternative medicine with regard to side-effects, interactions or lack of compliance with conventional medicine.