National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
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5 Things To Know About Dietary Supplements and Children


Research has shown that many children use herbs and other dietary supplements. However, there are little data available on their safety and effectiveness in children. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) gathered information on use of complementary health approaches among more than 9,000 children younger than 18. Nearly 12 percent of the children had used some form of a complementary health approach during the past 12 months. If you are considering a complementary health approach for your child, including a dietary supplement, here are 5 things you should know:

  1. Many complementary health products and practices, including herbs and other dietary supplements are not tested for safety or effectiveness in children, and children may react differently than adults do to these approaches.
  2. Although many dietary supplements come from natural sources, “natural” does not necessarily mean “safe.” Dietary supplements can have side effects, and these may be different in children than in adults.
  3. Federal regulations for dietary supplements are less strict than those for prescription and over-the-counter drugs.  Some dietary supplements may be of poor quality or contain contaminants, including drugs, chemicals, or metals.
  4. NCCIH urges parents to follow the CDC’s vaccination recommendations in order to safeguard their children against vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines prevent infectious diseases in people who receive them and protect those who come in contact with unvaccinated, infected individuals. Vaccinating children against diseases helps protect our community’s and our children’s health.
  5. Ask your child’s health care provider about the effectiveness and possible risks of complementary health approaches you are considering or already using for your child. Also, remind your teenagers to discuss with their health care providers any complementary health approaches they may use.

This page last modified September 24, 2015