Alternative Asthma Therapy Might Leave Kids Breathless

Study confirms alternative asthma therapies may interact with conventional treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) About 13 percent of parents turn to alternative therapies (including supplemental vitamins, homeopathy and acupuncture) to treat their children's asthma.

The finding comes from a recent study by the Université de Montréal. Alternative therapies may leave kids (and parents) gaspig for breath, however, since the trend is associated with a two-fold, higher rate of poor asthma control. There is no evidence that these therapies are effective, according to the study.

“Previous studies have shown that close to 60 percent of parents believe that complementary and alternative medicines are helpful,” said lead study author Francine M. Ducharme, a Université de Montréal professor and pediatrician and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center. “Yet well-designed studies have failed to show any evidence that therapies such as acupuncture, homeophathy, chiropractic medicine or herbal therapy are effective in asthma."

Adverse reactions to these alternative treatments include possible interactions with conventional asthma treatment and delayed, inadequate treatment.

"Our findings confirm that children using complimentary or alternative medicine, are twice as likely to have poor asthma control than those that don't," said Ducharme.    

More than 2,000 families were assessed for the study. Each family came to the Asthma Centre at the Montreal Children's Hospital for an initial visit and from there, researchers compiled relevant health information, patient demographics, and asthma severity and control. The study was funded by the scholarship from the American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (USA).

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that restricts breathing in patients. Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath occur after being triggered by allergens and other irritants.

The danger to alternative asthma therapy is two-fold: these approaches may not only be inadequate and ineffective, they may also interfere with traditional, proven treatments and conventional therapy.  

"Our study may serve as a reminder to parents that alternative and complementary medicine has not been proven effective in asthma," Ducharme said. "It should also serve as reminder to health care professionals to inquire about alternative therapy use, particularly if asthma is not well controlled, and initiate appropriate counseling.”

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 30, 2010
Last Updated:
December 1, 2010