Home-Based Therapies for the Common Cold Among European American and Ethnic Minority Families: The Interface Between Alternative/Complementary and Folk Medicine

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Most studies of alternative/complementary medicine use in children have focused on children with chronic illness and have not addressed the more common form of complementary medicine: popular home-based interventions and therapies for common low-morbidity sickness episodes. Also, there has often been a distinction between alternative/complementary medical practices used by the general population and those used by members of ethnic minority groups and commonly referred to as folk medicine or ethnomedicine.


To describe the home-based therapies and practices that parents from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds use to treat the common cold in their children.


Interviews with mothers of children coming for care at a number of clinics and physicians' offices. Included were mothers from European American, African American, Puerto Rican, and West Indian-Caribbean heritages.


Mean number of home-based remedies for the common cold did not differ among ethnic groups (controlling for maternal age, maternal education, number of children, and health insurance status). There were differences among groups regarding the frequency of use of specific remedies.


Home-based remedies for colds in childhood are commonly used. Many of the treatments are complementary to biomedical treatment (ie, antipyretics, over-the-counter cold remedies, fluids). Very few are potentially hazardous if taken in moderation. Mothers from ethnic minorities use similar amounts of home-based interventions when compared with mothers from the majority culture.

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