A four-year-old boy has been admitted to hospital after he was given holistic medicine to ‘cure’ his autism, doctors have warned.
Doctors writing in the British Medical Journal have appealed to parents of autistic children to avoid the potentially dangerous treatments and urged them that rather than ‘curing’ autism, such medication could put children at risk of serious harm.
Doctors Catriona Boyd and Abdul Moodambail say they treated the child, who has not been named, after he was admitted to hospital with vomiting, constipation and weight loss. After doctors examined him they found him to be suffering from hypercalcaemia, an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood, as well as a high level of vitamin D.
Days after he was admitted to hospital, his mother admitted a naturopath had told her to give the boy holistic supplements to treat his autism, including camel milk and silver. The doctors wrote: “Several days into his admission his mother disclosed that for a number of months he had been taking 12 different holistic supplements recommended to the family by a naturopath to help with his autism.
“These supplements included vitamin D, calcium magnesium citrate, cod liver oil, camel milk, silver… epsom bath salts and sodium chloride.”
The doctors said the child responded well to medical treatment and has since recovered. Police are now reportedly investigating the naturopath.
They warn: “There is a general belief that complementary therapies are ‘natural’ and therefore cannot cause harm, but there are many reported cases of complications, including fatalities, and probably many others which are not reported to medical practitioners or recognised as being attributable to complementary and alternative therapies.”
They added that doctors should make a routine habit of asking patients if they have taken alternative therapies in a bid to identify them early on and better inform treatment and recovery. “We probably underestimate the use of [them] but studies suggest that it is particularly prevalent in cases such as autism where there are limited conventional medical treatment options and advice regarding complementary therapies is not regulated.”
A 2007 study of autistic children in the US found that 74 per cent of children were taking alternative medicine. Researchers found parents of autistic children were more likely to choose such treatment over mainstream medication due to their belief alternative therapy is more ‘hands-on’ and gives greater consideration to emotional aspects of children’s wellbeing.
However, it is believed that most parents will not willingly disclose the treatment to the medical staff, with 66 per cent not sharing the information with doctors.
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