13 June 2003
Children treated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may be more at risk from what is withheld than what is given to them to ingest, Melbourne paediatrician Dr Alissa Lim says.
Notifications of adverse events to the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) over the past 2 years included an infant who died after developing malnutrition and sepsis after being on a diet of rice milk. In another case a child became dehydrated on a restricted diet that included withholding fluids for treatment of cough.
Dr Lim said that: 'Dietary and fluid restrictions have among the most serious outcomes.'
No incidence/prevalence data on CAM adverse events in children are available in Australia.
The APSU has received 33 reports in 2 years, including those that linked echinacea to poor growth, homeopathic medicine to seizure and apnoea (cessation of breathing), slippery elm to bleeding during surgery and raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy to premature closure of the ductus arteriosis (a small blood vessel present in a baby's heart before birth that shunts blood away from the lungs until the baby is born, at which time it normally closes).
A study conducted at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital has found 51 per cent of children used a CAM in the past 12 months, but only 37 per cent of them told a treating doctor.
Last Reviewed: 11 June 2003