BACKGROUND. Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies is common and increasing, particularly for children with chronic disease.

OBJECTIVES. The purpose of this work was to describe the use of complementary and alternative medicine by children and to identify factors that may influence the use of complementary and alternative medicine.

PATIENTS AND METHODS. We conducted a cross-sectional descriptive study with children who were visiting a pediatric outpatient clinic. Parent's satisfaction about primary care was evaluated with the Parent's Perceptions of Pediatric Primary Care Quality questionnaire.

RESULTS. Fifty-four percent of children used ≥1 type of complementary and alternative medicine in the previous year. No sociodemographic characteristic difference was found between user and nonuser groups. Children most often used complementary and alternative medicine to treat musculoskeletal problems (27%), psychological problems (24%), or infections (20%). Factors that influenced complementary and alternative medicine use were “word of mouth” (36%), “reference by a physician” (28%), “personal experience by parents” (28%), and “no adequate resources in ‘traditional’ medicine” (21%). Forty-seven percent of complementary and alternative medicine users used prescribed medications simultaneously. Most users (75%) believed that complementary and alternative medicine had no potential adverse effects or interactions with prescribed medication. Only 44% of complementary and alternative users were known as such by their physician. The primary care satisfaction was significantly lower in complementary and alternative users versus nonusers. Parents of complementary and alternative users were less satisfied in the areas of accessibility, knowledge of the patient, and communication.

CONCLUSIONS. Complementary and alternative medicine was used by 54% of the children in our cohort. Complementary and alternative medicine users were less satisfied with primary care than nonusers. Only 44% of complementary and alternative medicine users were known by their physician. It is important that physicians systematically elicit families' expectations of treatment and be aware of the range of therapies used by children.

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