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Complementary and alternative medicine in pediatrics

Kathi J Kemper, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Jan E Drutz, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Many Americans integrate complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies into overall health strategies for themselves and their children. Pediatric clinicians should have some knowledge regarding CAM because they may be asked to advise patients regarding these therapies or provide referrals to CAM practitioners. Clinicians should ask about the CAM therapies their patients are using and know where to turn for additional information when questions arise (table 1) [1].

This topic will provide an overview of the use of CAM therapies in pediatrics. The use of CAM therapies for specific disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, is discussed in the relevant treatment topics. As an example, see Autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents: Complementary and alternative therapies.


Integrative medicine is relationship-based care that focuses on the whole person; is informed by evidence; and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, health care professionals, and disciplines to promote optimal health and healing [2].

Complementary therapies are a subset of integrative medicine; they are used as adjuncts to conventional care. The list of practices that are considered to be complementary or alternative changes as practices and therapies become part of mainstream medicine over time and in different cultures. Integrative medicine encompasses some common basic values. These values reflect the importance of individual rights and the increasing education levels and access to information that characterize modern society:

Recognition of the primary importance of treating the patient as an individual rather than a constellation of symptoms (patient-centered care)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 18, 2017.
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