For Kids, Dietary Supplements May Pose Risks

Dietary supplements and herbal medicines may harm children and teens

(RxWiki News) Many kids and teens are using dietary and herbal supplements, but some health experts have questioned the safety of these over-the-counter products.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, around 12 percent of children and teens in the United States use an herbal or dietary supplement. Here's the problem: The vast majority of these products are not tested for safety or effectiveness by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they reach store shelves.

In fact, many studies and reviews have found that these products often contain different amounts of the ingredients on their labels — or different ingredients altogether. Some of these ingredients may harm the health of children and teens or interact with other medications.

For more information on dietary supplement dangers for teens and children, see below.

Common Interactions

Due to the vast number of over-the-counter supplements and FDA-approved medications, it's nearly impossible to predict all the potential interactions between herbal supplements and prescribed medications. However, health officials have identified a few common, potentially dangerous interactions:

  • Vitamin C: This over-the-counter vitamin supplement may slow the body's ability to process acetaminophen, a common painkiller.
  • St. John's wort: Medications for cancer, seizures, depression and other conditions may be affected by St. John's wort, an herbal supplement.
  • Melatonin: A hormone commonly used as a sleep aid, melatonin may alter the levels of other hormones in children. It shouldn't be given to children with hypertension, depression, migraines, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes or hormonal disorders.
  • Probiotics: Not much is known about the long-term effects of over-the-counter probiotic use in children. Some research has suggested that severely ill patients shouldn't take these supplements.
  • Multivitamins: Despite what TV commercials might have you believe, multivitamins can actually be unhealthy for some children and teens because they can provide too much of certain vitamins and minerals. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says children who have varied diets don't need to take multivitamins, but it's best to check with your child's doctor.

Why Some Kids Use Supplements

Unfortunately, the teenage years are a common time to suffer from body image issues. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, many dietary supplements prey on body image issues, which could help explain why so many teens appear to use herbal and dietary supplements.

Some supplements promise weight loss, while others promise increased athletic performance. In the vast majority of cases, these supplements haven't been tested by the FDA. That means they could be unsafe. If your child is dealing with body image issues, talk to his or her health care provider about your options.

How to Keep Your Children Safe

A quick walk down the supplement aisle in your grocery store will illustrate the vast number of dietary and herbal supplements that are on the market. While some of these supplements could be safe, you don't want to take risks with your child's health.

To keep your child safe, talk to your family health care provider about any supplement your child is taking or wants to take.

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Review Date: 
November 9, 2017