The use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) appears increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents. Individuals with chronic illness may have patterns of greater usage. This questionnaire-based study aimed to ascertain the frequency of use by a group of children with proven inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and to consider the reasons for their use.
A questionnaire was sent by mail to the parents of patients currently attending a paediatric IBD clinic. Parents were asked to describe their child's usage of alternative and probiotic therapies and to comment on a number of aspects of such therapies.
Forty-six (77%) of 60 mailed questionnaires were returned. The mean age of the children was 10.9 (+/- 4.1) years and they were taking an average of 1.7 (+/- 0.8) prescribed medications. Thirty-three (72%) of the children were said by their parents to be having CAM, with four having five or more such therapies (average 2.4 +/- 1.3 agents per child). The most commonly used agents were probiotics (78%) and fish oils (56%). A minority (12%) of respondents reported that their child's CAM was very effective, although many (50%) noted partial benefits. The 13 children who had never used any CAM therapies ('non-users') did not differ from the 'users' in terms of gender, age, disease or duration of disease. As expected, non-users expressed greater concerns about use of CAM and described different attitudes towards such therapies.
Complementary and alternative medicines, especially probiotic therapies, frequently are administered to children and adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease. Often this appears to be due to parental frustration with managing their child's chronic illness. Practitioners caring for children and adolescents with IBD need to be aware that their patients may be using alternative therapies and adopt an open attitude in this situation.