OBJECTIVES Patients are assuming responsibility for their own health by self-medicating with dietary supplements, often without physician knowledge or oversight. The objectives of this study were to determine: 1) pediatric dietary supplement use by surveying parents of children who were hospitalized in a university institution; 2) if any health care professional inquired about supplement use at the time the child was hospitalized; 3) whether the use of a supplement was documented in the patient's medical record; and 4) parents' attitudes about dietary supplements.

STUDY DESIGN Parents of 100 hospitalized pediatric patients (<18 years of age) were randomly selected to complete a survey about their child's use of dietary supplements prior to and during hospitalization. They were also asked if they intended to use these products after hospitalization. The purpose of the study was explained, informed consent was obtained, and parents were given ample time to complete the survey.

RESULTS Fifty percent of parents reported giving their child a dietary supplement prior to hospitalization; 17% reported use of an herbal supplement. Only 24% of parents reported being asked about supplement use by a health care professional upon admission or during the hospital stay. The response to only five of these queries was documented in the child's medical record.

CONCLUSIONS Increasing dietary supplement use mandates that all health care professionals elicit this information as part of the routine History and Physical Examination at the time a child is hospitalized. This information should also be documented in the patient's medical record. Likewise, parents should be encouraged to discuss the use of these products with their physician and pharmacist.

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