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Show 1129: Is Complementary Medicine Good for Children?

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At times, complementary medicine such as mindfulness meditation or guided imagery may be better than conventional pills for children's health. But parents and pediatricians need to be on the same page

Complementary medicine has become popular in the US. Many people pay out of pocket for treatment by Ayurveda practitioners, massage therapists or chiropractors. Others take a range of herbs and other natural products as dietary supplements. Some of these practices are controversial, but conventional physicians are beginning to integrate some ideas, such as dietary advice or meditation, into their practices.

Kids Taking Alternative Medicines:

A recent analysis of a decade of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2014) showed that approximately one third of youngsters under age 19 are taking some type of dietary supplement or alternative medicine (JAMA Pediatrics, online June 18, 2018).  Many of these youngsters were taking multivitamins or vitamin C or D. Others, however, were using melatonin as a sleep aid or herbs to boost energy. Some teens took bodybuilding supplements, and some children were on probiotics or other digestive aids. Is this use safe? To find out, we talk with Dr. Amitha Kalaichandran, a resident in pediatrics with an interest in integrative medicine.

When Complementary Medicine May Be Especially Helpful:

We also talk with Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician in private practice, about times when doctors might wish to use alternative approaches. Pediatricians are beginning to change their way of treating ear infections, which are a common affliction in children. Instead of prescribing antibiotics immediately, they may now take a watch-and-wait tactic. At the same time, they can give parents ideas on how to calm the child’s pain.

It is important for parents to discuss everything their kids are taking with the pediatrician or other health care provider. That way, everyone can be alert for potential interactions and side effects that may occur.

We also find out about encouraging kids to be active without putting them at high risk for injury. When they are playing outside in the summer, parents need to think about sunscreen and mosquito protection as well. What will parents think about this summer when it comes to keeping children staying safe and healthy?

This Week’s Guests:

Amitha Kalaichandran,MD, is a resident physician in pediatrics at the University of Ottawa. Her interests are in integrative pediatrics, focusing on nutrition and mind-body medicine and specifically innovative ways of improving children's well-being. Dr. Kalaichandran is a Munk Global Journalism Fellow. Her articles on complementary medicine in children include a publication in Pediatric Emergency Care (online Feb. 28, 2018) and one in Paediatrics & Child Health (Feb. 2018).

Alan Greene, MD, is a pediatrician in private practice and founder of DrGreene.com, a premier site for pediatric information. He was the founding president of the Society for Participatory Medicine and is the author of Feeding Baby Green, Raising Baby Green and From First Kicks to First Steps. Dr. Greene consults with a number of online and pediatric companies, including Scanadu, Plum Organics, PanTheryx and Lighting Science. In 2010 he founded the WhiteOut Movement and in 2012 he founded TICC TOCC.

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