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Addison Disease in Children


Addison disease is a condition that causes low levels of aldosterone and cortisol. These hormones are made by your child's adrenal glands. Cortisol helps your child's body handle stress. Aldosterone helps your child's body balance salt, potassium, fluid. Addison disease may appear soon after your child is born, or when he or she reaches adolescence. An adrenal crisis happens when your child's cortisol and aldosterone levels suddenly drop. This may lead to low blood pressure, dehydration, and low blood sugar. An adrenal crisis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment in a hospital. An adrenal crisis can happen if your child suddenly stops taking his or her medicine. It can also happen when your child's body is under more stress than usual. This may happen during surgery, an illness, or trauma.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

Emotional support:

Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.


  • Steroid medicine is given to increase your child's cortisol level. This medicine helps your child's body handle stress and prevent an adrenal crisis. Steroid medicine will also help decrease your child's symptoms such as weakness and fatigue.
  • Sodium (salt) helps increase the amount of salt in your child's blood.
  • Glucose helps increase your child's blood sugar level. An adrenal crisis may cause low blood sugar levels.
  • Blood pressure medicine may be given to increase your child's blood pressure.


  • Blood and urine tests may be used to measure your child's hormone levels. Your child's blood may be collected after a hormone is injected. The hormone causes the adrenal glands to make cortisol and aldosterone. Blood tests also check your child's blood sugar levels, electrolyte levels, blood cell levels, and kidney function. Your child's pituitary and thyroid gland hormone levels may also be measured.
  • An x-ray, CT, or MRI may be done to check the size of your child's adrenal gland. These tests also check for problems that may cause Addison disease. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the area show up better in pictures. Tell a healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell a healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.
  • A biopsy is used to take a sample of your child's adrenal gland. The sample can be checked for signs of Addison disease.

IV fluids

will be given to treat dehydration and increase your child's blood pressure.


Your child can have an adrenal crisis if he or she does not take his or her medicine. An adrenal crisis can also happen if your child does not get treatment for Addison disease. An adrenal crisis can cause severe dehydration, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar or sodium levels. These problems can become life-threatening.


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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.