The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) observational dataset was used to explore the use of homeopathic products and the association of reduced antibiotic use in young children.

Lesley Wye,1 Alastair D Hay, corresponding author1 Kate Northstone,2 Jackie Bishop,2 Judith Headley,2 and Elizabeth Thompson,3 

Abstract

 

Background

Any intervention to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics for infections in children has the potential to reduce the selective pressure on antimicrobial resistance and minimise the medicalisation of self-limiting illness. Little is known about whether homeopathic products might be used by some families as an alternative to antibiotics or the characteristics of such families. We used the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) observational dataset to explore the hypothesis that the use of homeopathic products is associated with reduced antibiotic use in pre-school children and to identify characteristics of the families of pre-school children given homeopathic products.

Methods

Questionnaires data were completed by the parents of 9723 children while aged between 3–4.5 years in Bristol UK. Univariable and multivariable analyses were used to explore the relationships between antibiotic and homeopathic product use.

Results

Six percent of children had received one or more homeopathic products and 62% one or more antibiotics between the ages of 3 and 4.5 years. After adjustment for factors associated with antibiotic use, there was no association between homeopathic product and antibiotic use (adjusted OR = 1.02, 95% CI 0.84, 1.24). Factors independently associated with child homeopathic product use were: higher maternal education, maternal use of homeopathic products, maternal lack of confidence in doctors, mothers reporting that they were less likely to see doctor when the child was ill, children being given vitamins, watching less television and suffering from wheeze and food allergies.

Conclusion

In this observational study, the use of homeopathic products was not associated with decreased antibiotic consumption, suggesting the use of homeopathic product complements rather than competes with the use of antibiotics in pre-school children. The characteristics of mothers giving homeopathic products to their children are similar to those associated with adult self-administration.


Received June 4, 2007; Accepted January 30, 2008.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1Academic Unit of Primary Health Care, Community Based Medicine, University of Bristol, Cotham House, Cotham Hill, Bristol, UK

2ALSPAC, Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Tyndall Ave, Bristol, UK

3Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Cotham Hill, Bristol, UK

corresponding authorCorresponding author.