Aims To ascertain the prevalence and types of complementary and alternative therapy (CAM) used in children at a general paediatric clinic. To describe the social and demographic profile of children using CAM. To document the parental impression of effectiveness of this intervention and to ascertain parental level of comfort in discussing CAM with doctors.
Methods A cross sectional study was carried out over 2 months in 2009. An anonymous parental questionnaire was designed, piloted and finally distributed to 200 parents of children (birth to 18 years) attending paediatric outpatients. Statistical tests used included Pearson chi-squared.
Results 185 (92.5%) completed questionnaires were available for analysis. 47 (25%) parents reported using CAM for their children. In comparison to other forms of CAM, a significant number (p=0.27) used faith-healing (n=20) as their form of CAM, followed in frequency by herbal medicine (n=15) and acupuncture (n=11). Those with private health (40%) insurance are significantly (p=0.005) more likely to avail of CAM in comparison to medical card holders (43%). 25% of CAM users had not informed their doctor/paediatrician of the use of CAM and 17% would be uncomfortable discussing CAM with doctors. 21% delayed seeking medical advice as they used CAM before conventional medicine.
Conclusions In rural Ireland faith healers are common and may explain their popularity in this study. Doctors need to have a non-judgemental approach and more knowledge about CAM in order to initiate discussion during consultations about its possible beneficial and adverse effects. Parents may delay seeking medical advice whilst using CAM.