Acupuncture, the traditional Chinese treatment in which thin needles are inserted into the body at strategic points, is safe for kids, researchers say. As long as a qualified practitioner is doing the piercing, that is.
“Based on the available evidence, in trained hands, acupuncture is safe for children,” said Dr. Sunita Vohra of the University of Alberta, of the new findings published in the journal Pediatrics.
Researchers reviewed records of 1,422 youth who received acupuncture for a variety of ailments. Mild adverse side effects such as pain, bruising, or numbness were noted in 12 percent of the patients. About 2 percent experienced more serious side effects, such as a French teen who was diagnosed with HIV after acupuncture treatment for tendonitis, and a Japanese teen with nerve problems after acupuncture needles were left in his body.
Parents can help ensure safe, appropriate treatment for their children by getting a recommendation from their kid’s pediatrician, meeting with the acupuncturist and overseeing its application, according to Dr. Adeline Ge, senior Chinese medicine consultant with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The needles and the child’s skin should be cleaned prior to placement of the needles, she advises. And parents should be wary of practitioners offering cheap first visits; the typical first session runs about $100.