Background: Complementary and alternative medical therapies are becoming increasingly popular in the general population.
Objective: To describe the cultural differences in the use of herbal and dietary supplements in the Hispanic and non-Hispanic-Caucasian outpatient pediatric populations.
Methods: Questionnaires were administered over a 2-month period to a convenience sample of adolescents and parents of patients younger than 12 years, presenting to an emergency department, an urban private pediatric practice, and a community-based clinic.
Results: There were 643 surveys completed. Ethnic distribution was 65% Caucasian, 27% Hispanic, 2% Pacific Islander, and 1% each Asian, African American and Native American. Mean respondent age was 30.8 years. Mean child age was 4.6 years; 51% were male. Use of nonprescribed dietary supplements was significantly greater in Hispanic (33%) versus Caucasian children (9%) (P < 0.01); most commonly used supplements were herbal teas (56%) and echinacea (14%). More Hispanic respondents reported receiving information on herbal preparations from a family member compared with non-Hispanic patients (56.0% vs. 18.7%). Complementary and alternative medicine use had not been discussed with a health care provider by 38% of the total users and 47% of those thought it not important to do so.
Conclusions: There is significant use of complementary and alternative medicine in the pediatric population, and herbal and dietary supplement use varies between Hispanic and Caucasian children. In addition, this dietary supplement use is often not discussed with health care providers. These factors should be taken into consideration by all health care providers.