Complementary and alternative medicine practitioner’s management of acute respiratory tract infections in children – a qualitative descriptive study

Sandra Lucas*, Matthew J. Leach, Saravana Kumar, Anna C. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) is one of the most prevalent types of infection among children and a common reason for hospital admission. Although parents frequently consult complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners to assist with the management of childhood ARTI, little is known about the treatments that CAM practitioners recommend and why. The aim of this research was to understand what CAM practitioners typically prescribe for the management of childhood ARTI and how practitioners formulate decisions regarding the management of this condition.

The research was guided by a qualitative descriptive framework. CAM practitioners across Greater Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) who had treated children aged 0–12 years with ARTI in the past 12 months were eligible to participate. Data were captured using semi-structured interviews, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Multiple strategies to improve trustworthiness were implemented (e.g., triangulation of data). Data were analysed using inductive content analysis.

Twenty-four CAM practitioners from ten different disciplines participated in the interviews. Most participants were female (75%), and more than half (54%) were practicing naturopaths. The treatments most commonly recommended were lifestyle modification (95%), nutrition/diet-based treatments (91%), and vitamin/mineral supplementation (87%). Practitioners’ decision-making process was underpinned by four key concepts namely: the approach to management, individualisation, do no harm, and collaborative practice. Individualisation and the safety of the child are cornerstones of treatment in the practitioner’s decision-making process.

This research sheds light on commonly used CAM interventions, many of which build on easily accessible and readily available treatments (such as soups) and are aligned with mainstream recommendations (such as rest). Practitioners’ decision-making process too aligns well with mainstream health care where the focus is on safety and informed by a biopsychosocial-cultural approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 947–962
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • traditional complementary integrated medicine
  • decision-making
  • paediatric
  • qualitative descriptive
  • respiratory infection
  • health personal


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