Managing Your Child’s ADHD Medication

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If your child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD,) they may have been prescribed medicine as part of their treatment plan. There are a number of ways your community pharmacist can assist you both initially and in the long term to manage your child’s medication.

The whole picture –Before your child starts taking the medicine, it is important to identify what other medicines they have been taking, this includes medicines that their doctor has prescribed; over the counter medicines; and supplements such as vitamins or herbal medicines. Most people see their pharmacist more frequently than their doctor or specialist and if your family has been going to the same pharmacy for some time, your community pharmacist may have a more complete picture of the medicines your child has been taking.

Answer your questions – Your pharmacist can answer any questions you might have about how the medicine works; the changes you might see; and possible side effects your child might experience.

Dosage and side effects – The medicine prescribed for your child will depend on their specific characteristics and pre-existing conditions. Some medicines also work better for some people and not others, so your doctor might trial different medicines to find the one that works best for your child. It is important to watch for any side effects when your child starts taking the medicine. While some side effects may decrease after a few weeks, discuss any concerns you may have with your pharmacist or doctor. Your doctor may decide to adjust the dosage to manage the side effects. There are a number of different medicines used to treat ADHD and finding the most suitable one at the right dose for your child might take a little while. As your child grows and matures your doctor will also regularly review whether your child still needs medication and whether the dosage needs to be changed.

Taking the medicine – Getting your child to take their medicine can be a challenge. Some children may resist taking their medicine because of the taste or a reluctance to swallow tablets. A compounding pharmacy will work with your doctor to prepare the medicine in a form that suits your child. This could include trying different flavoured mixtures or even different forms such as gummy gels, lollipops or lozenges. A compounding pharmacy can also compound medications to be colour free or without preservatives for children that have allergies.

Medication adherence – Safe and effective medication for ADHD means that it’s important that your child takes the recommended dose at the right time of the day and for the correct length of time.  When filling your child’s script your pharmacist may notice that your child is taking more or less of the medication than they have been prescribed.  Your pharmacist is not just a source for information about medicines, they are also a great resource for problem-solving. If you are struggling to manage multiple doses a day, co-occurring other issues, your child is experiencing side effects or your teen is reluctant to take their medication due to stigma or belief that the treatment isn’t working; speak to your pharmacist. They can help you make a schedule, provide suggestions for including your medication in your child’s daily routine, or help you to use re-fill reminders.

Interactions - Taking medicines for multiple issues, such as anxiety or asthma, may require adjustments to the typa dn dosage of your child's ADHD medicine. Also, it is important to speak to your pharmacist before giving your child any over the counter cold or allergy medicines as they may have a dangerous interaction with your child's ADHD medicine.

Timing of medications – With some medicines there can be a more intense return of ADHD symptoms as the medication wears off.  This ‘rebound effect’ can be modified by adjusting the dose or the time at which the medicine is taken. Some medicines are long-acting and only one dose is required a day. Other medicines are short-acting and may wear off after 3 to 6 hours. You may need to liaise with your child’s school about who can administer a second dose during the school day and where the medicine will be stored. You may also find you need a third dose to help your child get through homework at the end of the day. Your doctor will work with you and your child to find the optimal dose. Speak to your community pharmacist if you have any questions about how best to store medication that needs to go to school.

Stopping medication – Whether or not your child will need to take the medicine every day will depend on what medicine they have been prescribed. Some medicines need to be taken every day to reach a therapeutic level, whereas others only need to be taken when your child needs it, such as on school days. Your doctor may in fact suggest medication-free periods such as school holidays and weekends. With other medicines it’s important that your child is slowly weaned off them rather than stopping suddenly. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about stopping medication.

Changes in appetite and sleep– If you notice any changes in your child’s appetite and sleep patterns, speak to your pharmacist before giving your child any over the counter medicines, herbal supplements or vitamins to make sure there is no adverse interaction with your child’s ADHD medicine.

Explaining ADHD medicine to your child – For older children and adolescents it is important that you discuss with them what ADHD is and why they have been prescribed medicine. Your pharmacist can also answer any questions your child may have about taking the medicine or side effects they may experience.

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