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Table of Contents > Articles > Parents Seek Alternative Therapies for ...
Parents Seek Alternative Therapies for Their Children

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming more and more popular among Americans, and studies have found that many parents are eager to see how they might use these therapies to help their children.

Parents are turning to CAM in part because they have found that many common childhood ailments (such as frequent respiratory illnesses, asthma, headaches, and nosebleeds) that have not responded well to traditional medicine have been successfully managed with alternative options such as vitamins, herbs, supplements, and dietary changes. Other CAM therapies have also been explored and used successfully to treat children for everything from attention deficit disorder to bed-wetting. Biofeedback, imagery, relaxation therapy, massage, hypnosis, and acupuncture are employed in pediatric pain management centers. Many CAM practitioners (such as homeopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors, and acupuncturists) are available and have been specially trained to treat children.

However, several obstacles face parents as they try to embrace CAM care for their children. Most parents interested in CAM would like to discuss their thoughts with their child's doctor, but hesitate for fear that their doctor will respond negatively and think them less capable parents. One group of parents surveyed in the Washington, D.C., area seem to represent the dilemma well: although parents reported turning to alternative medicines such as vitamins and herb supplements to treat their children for frequent childhood complaints and wishing to discuss these decisions with their child's doctor, few did. Many hoped their child's physician would be the one to start the conversation.

Cost also makes CAM therapies unattainable for some. Chiropractic is the CAM most often covered by health insurance, but it frequently requires many treatments, which lead to high out-of-pocket expense. This is also true for acupuncture. Few acupuncture visits are covered by insurance, although a majority of practitioners do offer sliding scale fees.

The good news is that these obstacles can be overcome. Parent's strong interest in CAM for their kids will drive further evaluation of the cost-effectiveness, safety, and efficacy of CAM treatments for children. In the meantime, parents need to get comfortable talking with their child's doctor about CAM. Most doctors are following the developments in CAM with the same interest as parents are. If you are a parent exploring CAM therapies for your child,your child's physician needs to know what treatments you are considering so that he or she can effectively work with you to provide "the best of both worlds" and maximize your child's health care.

Suggested Resources

To find out more about various CAM therapies contact the following organizations:

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture


American Chiropractic Association


National Center for Homeopathy

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians


General resources for further reading on CAM:

Kemper K. The Holistic Pediatrician: A Parent's Comprehensive Guide to Safe and Effective Therapies for the 25 Most Common Childhood Ailments. New York, NY: Harper Perennial; 1996.

Murray M, Pizzorno J. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rev 2nd ed. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing; 1998.


All references from abstracts presented at The Pediatric Academic Societies' Annual Meeting May 1999. Authors and links located at

Review Date: October 1999
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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