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Alternative remedies can be fatal for children

26 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Using alternative remedies for children can be fatal, experts have warned.

Parents can be misled into believing that treatments such as homeopathy are more 'natural', with fewer side-effects than conventional allopathic drugs, a new study says.

But they may have direct dangerous effects, and even lead to death, when substituted for effective conventional medicines, the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood reports.

It found that the deaths of four children could be blamed on parents failing to use conventional treatments for illness and using alternative remedies instead, according to the Daily Mail.

The study team from the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, used data from 2001 to 2003 showing 39 separate incidents of side-effects in children up to 16 years old thought to be linked with alternative treatment.

In three-quarters of cases, the issues were 'probably or definitely' related to alternative medicine.

In 25 cases (64 percent), the adverse effects were rated as severe, life-threatening or fatal. In almost half of cases, including the four deaths, the patient was harmed by a failure to use conventional medicine.

One involved an eight-month-old admitted to hospital with malnutrition and septic shock following naturopathic treatment with a rice milk diet from the age of three months for constipation.

"Another death involved a 10-month-old with septic shock following treatment with homeopathic medicines and dietary restriction for chronic eczema," the report said.

The third death was sudden in a child who had presented with multiple seizures.

"A number of different complementary and alternative medicine therapies had been used instead of anti-convulsant therapy due to concerns about potential drug side effects," the report said.

The fourth death was of a child who needed blood-clotting drugs but was given alternative medicine instead.

Other reactions to such medicines included constipation, pain, seizures, vomiting, infections and malnutrition.

Alternative treatments are not subject to pharmaceutical testing as they are classified as food supplements. In Britain, homeopathy has been funded on the National Health Service (NHS) since 1948.

Cristal Sumner of the British Homeopathic Association said: "Most of the risks from CAM (complementary medicine) come from the failure to responsibly integrate therapies appropriately rather than a direct risk from treatments."


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