New research suggests that while it’s fairly common for parents to give their children cranberry products to treat or prevent urinary tract infections, they usually do not discuss the treatment with their pediatrician. The study, by researchers at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, was published in the July edition of Ambulatory Pediatrics.
“It has become clear that parents frequently use cranberry for therapeutic purposes – occasionally in lieu of standard therapy,” said Kathi Kemper, M.D., a pediatrician at Brenner Children’s Hospital and author of The Holistic Pediatrician. “Research to address efficacy and safety issues is needed even more urgently than we originally thought.”
More than 115 parents of patients treated at the pediatric nephrology clinic at Brenner Children’s Hospital were surveyed about their use of cranberry therapy in the treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI). Patients ranged in age from 6 months to 18 years, with an average age of 10.3 years.
The survey results showed that 74 percent of parents had heard of using cranberry therapeutically and 29 percent had given these products to their children. Of parents who treated their children with cranberry, about half used the products to prevent or treat UTIs. The other half gave them for a variety of reasons including “flushing the kidneys” or “when things just didn’t seem right” with their child’s urination. Only 23 percent of parents who used cranberry reported having discussed it with their pediatrician.
Cranberry products have been widely used and are promoted by various national organizations to prevent UTIs in adults.
“We thought it was safe to assume that many parents might give their children cranberry products to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections,” said Kemper. “We wanted to find out if we were right and if parents discussed their use of these products with their physician. As expected cranberry is a commonly used home remedy.”
However, few pediatric studies have been completed to determine the efficacy of using cranberry products in healthy kids with recurrent UTIs.
“Several adult studies have had mixed results, but on the whole show that cranberry products are safe in preventing UTIs in adults,” Kemper said.
Of the 34 parents who reported using cranberry therapy, 32 used cranberry juice, two used cranberry pills or capsules and two used dried cranberries. None reported that they gave cranberry because they were concerned about side effects or traditional therapy or because they ran out of antibiotics. Only 12 parents had been advised by a health professional to try cranberry, while others had heard about it through the media, family or friends.
Urinary tract infections are the most common serious bacterial illness treated by pediatricians. Common treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections includes antibiotics.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brenner Children’s Hospital. It is licensed to operate 1,187 acute care, rehabilitation, psychiatry and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report. Brenner Children’s was named one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation by Child magazine.