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More Kids Are Using Alternative Meds

Trend could lead to dangerous side effects, interactions, researchers say

FRIDAY, April 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- An increasing number of American children and adolescents are using dietary supplements, says a Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center study.

The researchers found more than 50 percent of young children and more than 30 percent of adolescents in the United States have used a dietary supplement.

This increased use of these supplements leads to greater risk, the researchers say.

"We surveyed 145 families and 45 percent reported giving their child an herbal product. Most of these caregivers did not believe or were uncertain if herbal products had any side effects, and only 27 percent could name a possible side effect. We found that more than half of caregivers were unsure or thought that herbal remedies did not interact with other medications," Dr. Kathi J. Kemper, a pediatrician at Brenner Children's Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

"And of those giving their children herbal products, only 45 percent reported discussing their use with their child's primary health-care provider," Kemper said.

Her study appears in the April issue of the Pediatric Annals.

Parents give their children dietary supplements to treat acute and chronic diseases and to prevent disease and maintain good health, Kemper said.

"Efficacy, safety dosage and product recommendation should all be considered before recommending supplement use," she said.

"Children have their own unique physiology and metabolize, excrete and absorb supplements differently from adults. Even if a supplement has proven clinical efficacy and safety, the lack of standardization and limited federal regulation of supplements are obstacles in making recommendations," Kemper said.

Parents should get expert advice when considering giving dietary supplements to their children and should inform the child's pediatrician of any herb or dietary supplement being taken by the child.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more about dietary supplements.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, April 2004
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