A cross-sectional survey of complementary and alternative medicine use by children and adolescents attending the University Hospital of Wales

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006 May 2;6:16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-6-16.


Background: A high prevalence of CAM use has been documented worldwide in children and adolescents with chronic illnesses. Only a small number of studies, however, have been conducted in the United Kingdom. The primary aim of this study was to examine the use of CAM by children and adolescents with a wide spectrum of acute and chronic medical problems in a tertiary children's hospital in Wales.

Methods: Structured personal interviews of 100 inpatients and 400 outpatients were conducted over a 2-month period in 2004. The yearly and monthly prevalence of CAM use were assessed and divided into medicinal and non-medicinal therapies. This use was correlated with socio-demographic factors.

Results: There were 580 patients approached to attain 500 completed questionnaires. The use of at least one type of CAM in the past year was 41% (95% CI 37-46%) and past month 26% (95% CI 23-30%). The yearly prevalence of medicinal CAM was 38% and non-medicinal 12%. The users were more likely to have parents that were tertiary educated (mother: OR = 2.3, 95%CI 1.6-3.3) and a higher family income (Pearson chi-square for trend = 14.3, p < 0.001). The most common medicinal types of CAM were non-prescribed vitamins and minerals (23%) and herbal therapies (10%). Aromatherapy (5%) and reflexology (3%) were the most prevalent non-medicinal CAMs. None of the inpatient medical records documented CAM use in the past month. Fifty-two percent of medicinal and 38% of non-medicinal CAM users felt their doctor did not need to know about CAM use. Sixty-six percent of CAM users did not disclose the fact to their doctor. Three percent of all participants were using herbs and prescription medicines concurrently.

Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of CAM use in our study population. Paediatricians need to ensure that they ask parents and older children about their CAM usage and advise caution with regard to potential interactions.CAM is a rapidly expanding industry that requires further evidence-based research to provide more information on the effectiveness and safety of many CAM therapies. Statutory or self-regulation of the different segments of the industry is important. Integration of CAM with allopathic western medicine through education and better communication is slowly progressing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Complementary Therapies / economics
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Costs
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Outpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Wales / epidemiology