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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder In Children

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects your child's behavior. Children with ADHD can be overactive and have short attention spans. ADHD may make it difficult for your child to do well at home or in school. ADHD may also cause your child to have problems getting along with other people. ADHD usually starts before your child is 7 years old and is more common among boys. The exact cause of ADHD is not known.

What increases the risk of ADHD in children?

The following may increase your child's risk of having ADHD:

  • Your child was born prematurely.

  • Your child has a close family member with ADHD.

  • Your child's mother smoked or used alcohol or illegal drugs during pregnancy.

  • Your child was exposed to toxic chemicals, such as lead in paint.

  • Your child has had a head injury, possibly during his birth.

  • Your child has learning and memory problems, depression, or another condition that affects how he thinks.

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD in children?

ADHD is grouped into 3 types. The signs and symptoms of ADHD will depend on the type of ADHD your child has. He may do any of the following:

  • Inattention:

    • Get easily distracted or have a hard time focusing

    • Avoid chores or activities that need full attention

    • Not follow or easily forget instructions or directions

    • Not seem to listen when spoken to

    • Make careless mistakes or lose things

    • Have problems organizing tasks or chores

  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity:

    • Become easily bored

    • Talk a lot, interrupt, or intrude into conversations or games

    • Have problems doing quiet activities or sitting still

    • Have problems waiting turns or waiting in line

    • Have more energy than other children his age

  • Combined type: This is the most common type of ADHD and is a combination of the other 2 types.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

There is no lab test for ADHD. Caregivers use a guide to diagnose ADHD. Your child's symptoms are often beyond what would be expected for his age. The symptoms must also be present for at least 6 months and not be caused by other problems. These symptoms must be severe enough to cause problems in 2 or more settings. These settings may include those in school or at home. Some symptoms must be present before the age of 7.

How is ADHD treated?

The goal of treatment is to help your child learn how to control his behavior. Caregivers will also work with you to help you learn to cope with your child's ADHD. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Behavior therapy: With a therapist, your child will learn how to control his actions and improve his behavior. This is done by teaching him how to change his behavior by looking at the results of his actions.

  • Psychotherapy: This is also called talk therapy. Your child may have one-on-one visits with a therapist or with others in a group setting.

  • Medicines:

    • Stimulants: This medicine helps your child pay attention, concentrate better, and manage his energy.

    • Antidepressants: This medicine helps decrease or prevent the symptoms of depression or anxiety. It can also be used to treat other behavior problems.

What are the risks of ADHD?

  • Some medicines may cause your child to have problems sleeping, headache, abdominal pain, and convulsions. Other side effects include loss of appetite, vomiting, irritability, and unusual changes in behavior.

  • If left untreated, your child's behavior may get worse and he may also develop other serious problems. These include alcohol or drug use, depression, and problems with his mood, friendships, and relationships. He may have a poor image of himself. With ADHD, your child may even have thoughts of harming himself or others.

Where can I find more information?

  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association
    PO Box 7557
    Wilmington , DE 19803-9997
    Phone: 1- 800 - 939-1019
    Web Address:
  • Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder
    8181 Professional Place, Suite 150
    Landover , MD 20785
    Phone: 1- 800 - 233-4050
    Web Address:

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • You feel you cannot help your child at home.

  • Your child's ADHD prevents him from doing most of his daily activities.

  • Your child has new symptoms since the last time he visited his caregiver.

  • Your child's symptoms are getting worse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has a convulsion.

  • Your child has trouble breathing, chest pains, or a fast heartbeat.

  • Your child has hurt himself or someone else.

  • You feel like hurting your child.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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