Parent use of complementary medicine remedies and services for the management of respiratory tract infection in children: a qualitative study

S. Lucas*, S. Kumar, M.J. Leach, A. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasing globally, in both adults and children. A common condition where CAM is used in children is acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI). However, limited information exists regarding specific CAM modalities used in children, and the factors that influence a parent’s decision to use CAM for ARTI in children. This research aimed to address this knowledge gap.

Method: This research used a qualitative descriptive approach. Parents residing in Greater Melbourne, Australia, who had children aged from 0–12 years, and had used CAM for treating ARTI in their children in the last 12 months, were eligible to participate. Parents’ perspectives were captured using individual semi-structured
interviews, which were then transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using content analysis.

Results: Twenty-four families were interviewed. Several strategies to improve trustworthiness were implemented. Three themes underpinning the parents’ decision to use CAM emerged from the data: safety, internal drivers and external drivers. Parents used a breadth of different treatments, predominantly food as medicine, followed by aromatherapy and other CAM remedies typically found in the kitchen, to manage ARTI in their children. Parents often used both CAM practitioners and mainstream medicine to manage ARTI in their children. While mainstream medicine was typically used to rule out any sinister pathology, CAM was often used as a frontline treatment option, with food as medicine (e.g. soups) dominating. This was due in part to concerns regarding the negative aspects of pharmaceutical use. Parents utilised a diverse range of information sources to inform their decision making, including friends, families and the internet; traditional sources of research evidence were generally not used.

Conclusion: Child safety was a major factor influencing a primary carer’s decision to utilise CAM for ARTI. The safety and effectiveness of remedies utilised by parents now warrants further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749–766
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


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


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