Minimizing side-effects and using ADHD medication effectively.

Working with medical colleagues in a multidisciplinary system and with learners with ADHD/ADD who take medication to help them manage it better a few guidelines have been suggested to minimize side-effects.

Stimulants medication prescribed for children with ADHD often include:

  • Methylphenidate (examples include Concerta, Daytrana, Focalin, Metadate ER, Methylin ER, Ritalin, Quillivant XR)
  • Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Vyvanse)
  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)

Many are short-acting drugs, while others are extended release, longer-acting versions.

It must be noted that the correct medication for the correct treatment can be very beneficial. However side-effects can happen and there are a few precautions parents can take to minimize them.

  1. Most mild side-effects subside after the early stages of treatment. Having continuous side-effects is nature’s way of saying that the dose could be too high. The rule of thumb should be to start at a low dose and increase it if needed which will curb side-effects.
  2. Another problem that parents complain about is that sometime the medication does not seem to work. It must be remembered that it takes about 6 weeks of continuous use to start seeing a change in behaviour. The medication affects the neurons and nervous system of the brain. Therefore a “holiday” from the medication is not ideal as the medication would need another 6 weeks to gain full strength, there needs to be consistency.
  3. Citric acid (Vitamin C) and Vitamin A inhibit the absorption of the medication in the body. It is therefore advised not to take these supplements an hour before and after taking the medication. Some foods also contain these vitamins and should be avoided until the time has passed (for example fruit juice etc).
  4. Some of the medication cause a reduction in appetite. It is advised that the child eat breakfast before taking the medication and eat smaller snacks throughout the day. A loss of weight will require a more carbohydrate rich diet while weight gain would require a more protein rich diet. Sugary foods and processed foods should be avoided. A food supplement drink can also help if they do not want to eat a meal. To avoid nausea make sure the child has eaten before taking the medication and allow for about 20 minutes before administering the medication. Consider moving dinner later to a period where the medication have worn out. Stomach aches can be avoided by eating before taking the medication and also taking probiflora.
  5. If the dose gets too high or if the child is very sensitive to the medication, their mood becomes blunted, please see your doctor to look at the dosage. Hormones, length and weight of a child influence the working of the medication, make sure you visit the doctor every 6 months. A longer acting medication can also improve any side-effects. Tics could also develop and the experts say that avoiding caffeine improves the side-effect.
  6. Sleep problems can also happen and looking at when the medication is administered helps to alleviate this as well as if it is long acting medication. If the child battles to fall asleep adjusting the time when the medication is administered will have a positive effect. Make sure the child has a bedtime routine and avoid stimulating activities before bedtime like reading, working on cellphones/computers/Ipads and watching TV at least an hour before the time. A soothing bath with lavender also calms the brain and senses to increase sleep. Also avoid caffeine.
  7. Headaches and dizziness can be avoided by eating before taking the medidation and drinking lots of fluids. Headaches can also be caused by a mineral deficiency and some children with ADHD have been found to be deficient in magnesium.
  8. When to Call the Doctor Immediately
    • If your child is fainting; complains of unusual heartbeats (such as rapid or skipped beats), chest pains, or shortness of breath; becomes agitated; begins having hallucinations; seems depressed; or voices suicidal thoughts.
    • If your child complains of itching, right upper belly pain, or unexplained flu-like symptoms or if he or she has dark urine or yellow eyes or skin (liver problems).
  9. Make sure to inform your doctor about any over the counter medication you are using that could have a influence on the medication your child is using for attention.
  10. Make sure your child is taking the correct vitamins and minerals  to ensure that any deficiencies are eliminated.Dr. Kruger meds side effects

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