, Volume 168, Issue 4, pp 431-437
Date: 03 Jul 2008

Use of complementary and alternative medicine by patients presenting to a paediatric Emergency Department

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Abstract

Although the popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has risen in the last decade, information about its use by paediatric patients presenting to an Emergency Department is still sparse. We report here the results of a cross-sectional survey of paediatric patients presenting to an urban, tertiary paediatric Emergency Department between October 2006 and March 2007. In total, 1143 questionnaires (68% of those distributed) were completed and available for analysis. Of these, 58% (n = 665) of all respondents admitted that their child had received some form of CAM therapy, while 25% (n = 291) admitted that their child was receiving CAM for the present illness. In 31% of the respondents (n = 354), CAM had been prescribed by a physician, while 50% (n = 575) used CAM as self-medication. Patients presented to the Emergency Department mostly because of an infection (42% of total; 29% of these used CAM) or a trauma (38% of total; 19% of these used CAM). Parents of CAM-users were significantly older, more often born in Switzerland and had significantly higher school education than those of the non-users. Nearly two-thirds of the administered CAM therapies were not prescribed by a physician, and 50% of the families using CAM did not discuss this with their general practitioner. Parental requirements implied that medical professionals on a paediatric Emergency Department should know the effects and side-effects of CAM therapies and even be able to recommend them. The study population, even trauma patients, frequently used CAM. The use of CAM is characterised by a high rate of self-medication and the exclusion of the physicians from the decision-making process. The parents of paediatric patients frequently demand that CAM be considered as a possible treatment option and wish to have an open discussion with the medical professionals on this topic.