Background: Herbal medicine use has become increasingly popular throughout the world. Some of these agents may have serious interactions with anesthetic drugs. Children may potentially be more vulnerable to such interactions because of altered drug handling. While the prevalence of herbal medicine use by children with some chronic illnesses has been estimated, the incidence of this in a population of otherwise healthy children admitted for minor ambulatory anesthesia and surgery is currently unknown.
Methods: Parents of 601 children presenting consecutively for ambulatory surgery were asked to complete a questionnaire detailing administration of herbal medicines to their child.
Results: This study identified that 6.4% of children were currently taking an herbal preparation; while a further 10.1% had taken an herbal medicine in the past. Echinacea and arnica were the commonest used herbal remedies. A significant number of children had taken agents which may interact with anesthesia and surgery: St John's Wort, valerian, garlic and gingko. Information on herbal medicines was mostly obtained by parents from nonmedical sources.
Conclusions: A total of 16.6% of children had a current or past history of ingestion of herbal medicines. This finding may have implications for the perioperative management of children presenting for day-case surgery.