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J Paediatr Child Health. 2002 Jun;38(3):252-7.

Survey of the use of complementary medicines and therapies in children with asthma.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia.



To survey the frequency of use of complementary medicines (CM) and complementary therapies (CT) in asthmatic children.


A 3-month survey of asthmatic inpatients and outpatients of a teaching hospital respiratory paediatrician was undertaken. Parents answered a structured questionnaire about their past and present usage and opinions of CM and CT. Parents and the physician independently assessed overall asthma control. 'Users' and 'non-users' of CM and CT were compared for characteristics of asthma, usage of conventional medications and parental demographics.


One hundred and seventy-four children with 331 parents were enrolled in the study. All of the children were on bronchodilators and 150 (86.2%) were on disodium cromoglycate or inhaled steroids. Control was assessed by a physician as good in 95 children (54.6%), fair in 65 (37.4%) and poor or very poor in 13 (7.5%). Ninety (51.7%) of the children had used at least one CM in their lifetime. Out of the 145 preparations used, 90 (62.1%) were in current use. Vitamins and minerals (53.2%) and herbal preparations (29%) were used most commonly. Only 47.8% of parents had told their doctors about the use of CM. Costs ranged from $A2-$A200 (median $A10) per month. Forty-three (24.7%) of the children had been taken to an alternative practitioner at a cost of $A25-$A400 (median $A40) per month. Users of CM and CT were significantly more likely than non-users to have persistent asthma (P < 0.02), be on high-dose inhaled or oral steroids (P < 0.05), to have poor or very poor control of symptoms (P < 0.04), and more frequent doctor visits (P < 0.05). They also had more adverse reactions to relieving bronchodilators (P < 0.02) and were significantly older than non-users (P < 0.02). The most common reasons for using CM and CT were dissatisfaction with conventional therapies and concerns about steroid side-effects.


Health professionals should be aware of the high rates of usage of CM and CT in asthmatic children and of parental attitudes to conventional and alternative therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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