News Forum: Alternative medicine for children with atopic dermatitis

GPs with an interest in dermatology review the latest papers of significance from research teams across the world

Hughes R, Ward D, Tobin AM et al. Pediatr Dermatol 2007;24(2):118-20

Patients with eczema and their carers are often frustrated and disillusioned with the perceived failure of conventional medicine, leading to the increasing popularity of alternative therapy.

Alternative medicines are defined as therapy with no scientific basis, for which no effective or diagnostic reliability has been demonstrated by scientific measures.

This study looked at the use of alternative medicines in children with atopic dermatitis. Questionnaires regarding the possible use of alternative medicine were sent to the parents of 80 children with atopic dermatitis.

Assessments included reason for using alternative medicine, duration of treatment, cost and success of any treatments.

Close to half of the study group (32) had used alternative medicines.

Herbal therapy and homoeopathy were the most popular choices. Most respondents reported no benefit with alternative medicine and three reported worsening symptoms.

Owing to the high number of patients trying alternative therapy, the authors have now included the questioning of patients regarding possible use of these therapies in their routine assessment. Some of these are known to have serious side-effects, so the authors have recommended enquiries about alternative medicine to be made in all paediatric dermatology clinics.

This would appear to be sensible advice. However, patient and carer education regarding avoidance of unproven and potentially dangerous alternative therapies may prove to be difficult in cases where conventional medicines have failed.

- Dr Waseem Chaudhry, a GPSI in dermatology in Caerphilly

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