Alternative Therapies Aren't Used as Substitutes for
Asthma Meds: Study04/13/12
FRIDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one in five parents
has turned to an alternative or complementary medicine or treatment
for their child's asthma, but new research has found that parents
are not abandoning traditional treatments in the process.
"We found that there were really no differences between the groups that used complementary and alternative medicine and those that didn't [in terms of adherence]. It seems that parents are using these therapies as complementary medicine alongside prescribed asthma treatments," said study author Dr. Julie Philp, a pediatrician and a dermatology resident at the University of California, San Francisco.
Results of the study were released online and published in the
May issue of
Complementary and alternative medicine includes health care
practices that aren't usually included in more conventional
medicine. Such treatment may include herbal remedies, acupuncture
and homeopathy. The use of complementary and alternative medicine
is on the rise among children, according to background information
in the article. Other research has found that children with
respiratory problems may be even more likely to be given an
alternative medicine treatment.
Health care providers have been concerned that parents who turn
to complementary and alternative medicine therapies might cut back
on the use of standard medications (for example, the daily use of
controller medications such as inhaled corticosteroids). Daily
controller medications typically have low adherence rates, even
without the addition of other medications or therapies, according
to the study.
To assess whether or not the use of complementary and
alternative medicines might further lower adherence rates to those
medications, Philp and her colleagues used data from a larger study
that was designed to assess the impact of physician education on
the management of asthma.
The new study included 187 parents of children on daily
controller medication for their asthma. The study population was
predominantly white and 61 percent had a college education or
higher. Eighteen percent of the parents said they had turned to
some form of complementary or alternative medicine for their
The researchers specifically asked about the use of herbs, teas,
dietary changes, breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, massage,
biofeedback or homeopathy.
Each week, the children in the study missed an average of 7.7
percent of their daily controller medication doses. The researchers
found that the use of complementary or alternative medications
didn't seem to affect that rate.
"The data from this study suggest that complementary and alternative medicine use is not necessarily 'competitive' with conventional asthma therapies; families may incorporate different health belief systems simultaneously in their asthma management," the study authors concluded.
Experts still urge parents to be wary when considering
alternative medicines or treatments for their child's asthma.
"I would urge parents to proceed with caution any time they use an alternative treatment. They're not magical, and if something works to improve symptoms, then it has the potential to hurt you, too," said Dr. Raoul Wolfe, medical director of asthma medicine at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago.
He added that people should talk with their child's doctor to
make sure whatever alternative therapy they might want to try
doesn't have the potential to interact with standard
Philp said that one of the study's aims is to get pediatricians
to open up a dialogue with patients and their parents. For parents,
she recommends, "Share with your child's health care provider what
your beliefs are and work with the doctor to find complementary and
alternative therapies that are safe. The doctor, parent and child
should be a team working together."
Jonathan Feldman, an assistant clinical professor of
epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of
Medicine in New York City, agreed that parents and providers need
to talk about alternative medicine. "The number-one message is the
need for open communication," he said. "What we, and others have
found, is that if doctors don't ask, families won't tell. Families
don't bring up alternative medicine use with providers. It's sort
of taboo. But, parents should be more open about what they're
giving the kids."
And, Feldman added that providers need to be sure they're
familiar with the types of alternative treatments that their
patient populations might be using. For example, he said that in
his area, which has a large black and Puerto Rican population, one
of the most common alternative treatments that people use is a
menthol chest rub. But, he said, patients often don't think of this
as an alternative treatment; it's just something that their
families have always used. So it's important for health care
providers to be specific when they ask about alternative
treatments, he explained.
Learn more about alternative medicine treatments and asthma from
U.S. National Center for Complementary and A...rnative
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