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Sprouty New Age Medicine, Like, Totally Risky for Kids, Study Shows
You know that guy down at the food co-op, the one wearing a tie-dye shirt, dreadlocks and a badge that reads, "Hello, my name is Moonbeam"?
He probably is not a qualified pediatrician.
So enough with the hippie vitamins and herbs. Bomb your kid with NyQuil.
He probably needs serious pharmaceuticals a lot more than he needs to wear an Indian medicine bag around his neck with rose quartz crystals inside to channel the cosmic energies.
Alternative medicine is popular among the granola crowd and others who link the word "natural" with "safe." Even scoffers generally consider alternative medications safe. Useless and kind of dumb, but safe.
However, new research in the Archives of Childhood Diseases suggests the side effects of all these vitamins and herbs could be serious. Even deadly.
Alissa Lim, a pediatrician at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and her fellow researchers tracked all the negative effects from alternative medications reported to the Australian Pediatric Surveillance units from January 2001 through December 2003.
WebMD reports 39 cases where things went horribly wrong, including four deaths. A child with epilepsy died, for instance, after being treated with alternative therapies instead of anticonvulsants.
Infants apparently faced the greatest risk. Many were put on special diets to treat chronic illnesses and failed to get the nutrition they needed.
"Parents should be aware that, like any other treatments and medicines, adverse effects can be associated with CAM use," Lim tells WebMD. "They should talk with their doctor before changing prescribed medications or restricting their child's fluid or diet.
"The take-home message for families is to be aware of potential side effects from the use of CAM and weigh up the benefits and risks of any treatment they use for their children."
But, remember, this study is from Australia.
Lawrence Rosen, a pediatrician at the Whole Child Center in Oradell, N.J., and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine, says it doesn't really apply to the United States.
"Most studies in the U.S. show that the use of these therapies is done in complement to conventional medications, not as an alternative," he tells WebMD, adding that American infants are rarely put on restrictive diets.
"If you have a child with a chronic illness or a complex illness, do not stop conventional therapy to use alternative without discussing it with your physician," he says. "Talk to your doctor about everything you give your children. Are there going to be adverse events? Yes. Do we need to do a better job monitoring them? Yes."
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