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Health Capsules
March 2007
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Talking About CAM Therapies

Nearly two-thirds of older Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but less than one-third of them discuss it with their doctors.  That’s according to a recent survey conducted by AARP and NIH.  The news is disturbing, because doctors need to know about your CAM therapies so they have a full picture of everything you are doing to manage your health.

CAM includes any health practices outside the realm of conventional medicine as practiced in the U.S., such as herbal supplements, meditation, homeopathy and acupuncture.

Researchers asked 1,559 people, age 50 or older, about conversations with their doctors about CAM.  Although 63% of those surveyed said they had used at least 1 CAM therapy, nearly 70% of them had not discussed it with a physician.  Their top reasons:  The physician never asked; they didn’t know they should bring it up; or there wasn’t enough time during the office visit.  Some patients thought their doctors might react negatively or be unwilling to discuss CAM therapies.

Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed said they take one or more prescription medications, and nearly 60% said they take one or more over-the-counter medications.  CAM therapies and conventional treatments can interact in unintended ways.  This study underscores the need for patients and their doctors to discuss all therapies, including CAM, to ensure safe, integrated health care.

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Talk to Your Doctor About CAM

  • If you are considering a CAM therapy, ask your physician about its safety, effectiveness and possible interactions with your current medications.
  • Tell your doctor about all therapies or treatments you’re now using, including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as herbal and dietary supplements.
  • When filling out patient history forms, be sure to include all therapies and treatments you use.  Consider making a list before you go to the doctor’s office.
  • Don’t wait for your doctor to ask about your use of CAM.  Bring up the topic yourself.

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  Treating Asthma in Kids

Several medications can help control children’s asthma, but no clinical trials have directly compared them.  A new study funded by NIH tested the effectiveness and safety of three common asthma medicines.  It found that inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective initial daily therapy for children with mild to moderate persistent asthma.

The researchers divided 285 children, ages 6-14, into 3 groups, each receiving a different daily therapy for their asthma:  a low dose inhaled corticosteroid (Flovent); a combination of an even lower dose inhaled corticosteroid along with a bronchodilator (Advair and Serevent); and an oral anti-leukotriene tablet (Singulair).

During the 48 weeks of treatment, the children taking inhaled corticosteroid alone showed better lung function than those in the other two groups.  The inhaled corticosteroid alone and combination therapies were similarly effective at controlling symptoms, and both were more effective than the anti-leukotriene.  None of the treatments significantly affected children’s growth, a concern for many parents and doctors.

The study shows that inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective therapy for children of this age group with this type of asthma.

Definitions iconDefinition

A chronic disease that causes your airways, the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs, to narrow so that less air flows through. Symptoms include wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness and trouble breathing.

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We Can!

We Can! is a national education program designed for families and communities to help children achieve a healthy weight.  It focuses on 3 important behaviors: improved food choices, increased physical activity and reduced screen time.  Find practical tips and resources that you can start using today.

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