CAM Use and Children

A wide range of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies are used in children, including herbs and dietary supplements, massage, pressing, rubbing, and moving muscles and other soft tissues of the body, primarily by using the hands and fingers. The aim is to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the massaged area., acupuncture, a family of procedures that originated in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body by a variety of techniques, including the insertion of thin metal needles though the skin. It is intended to remove blockages in the flow of qi and restore and maintain health., chiropractic care, naturopathy, a whole medical system that originated in Europe. Naturopathy aims to support the body's ability to heal itself through the use of dietary and lifestyle changes together with CAM therapies such as herbs, massage, and joint manipulation., and homeopathy, a whole medical system that originated in Europe. Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body's ability to heal itself by giving very small doses of highly diluted substances that in larger doses would produce illness or symptoms (an approach called "like cures like").. This fact sheet from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) offers information for parents who are thinking about using a CAM therapy for their child.


Key Points

  • CAM is used by American children, including adolescents.
  • Children are not small adults. Their bodies can react differently from adults' bodies to medical therapies, including CAM.
  • In general, CAM therapies have not been well studied in children.
  • Tell your child's health care providers about any CAM therapy you are considering or using for your child. This helps to ensure coordinated and safe care.


Patterns of CAM Use in Children

The 2007 National Health Interview Survey gathered information on CAM use among more than 9,000 children aged 17 and under. Nearly 12 percent of the children had used some form of CAM during the past 12 months. CAM use was much more likely among children whose parents also used CAM. Adolescents aged 12–17, children with multiple health conditions, and those whose families delayed or did not use conventional medical care because of cost were also more likely to use CAM. The accompanying figures show survey findings on CAM use by children, including top therapies and diseases/conditions.

In addition, a 2001 survey of 745 members of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 87 percent of pediatricians had been asked about CAM therapies by a patient or a parent in the 3 months prior to the survey. The pediatricians were asked most often about herbs and dietary supplements.



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