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Adrenal Insufficiency In Children


Adrenal insufficiency is a condition that develops when your child's adrenal glands do not make enough adrenal hormones. Adrenal hormones such as cortisol help your child's body handle stress, keep blood pressure normal, and balance salt and fluids. They control how his body uses sugars, fats, and proteins. An adrenal crisis may happen if your child's adrenal hormones become too low. This condition is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.



  • Steroid medicine: Steroids are given to balance the steroid hormone levels your child's adrenals naturally make. He may need to take this medicine for the rest of his life. You may need to change the amount he takes if he is ill or has increased stress. Ask your child's healthcare provider when and how much to increase his medicine. Do not stop giving this medicine to your child before you talk to his healthcare provider. Your child can trigger an adrenal crisis if he stops taking steroids suddenly.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare as directed:

Visit your child's healthcare provider at least once a year or as directed. Your child's endocrinologist may have you check your child's blood sugar on a regular basis. He will tell you when and how often to do this. Your child's medicine may need to be adjusted over time. As your child grows, he may need more medicine to keep him healthy. He may also need blood tests to make sure he is getting the right amount of medicine. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Medical alert identification:

Have your child wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says he has adrenal insufficiency. You may get one from your local drugstore or ask your child's healthcare provider where to get one.

Ways to help your child:

  • Give your child snacks that contain sugar when he exercises or is active for long periods.
  • Keep a blood glucose monitoring device and glucose gel at home. Ask for information on how to check your child's blood sugar levels with a blood glucose monitoring device.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child feels dizzy when he stands up.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain.
  • Your child is sweating more than usual.
  • Your child does not have any more medicine, or he stopped taking it.
  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has chills or a high fever.
  • Your child has dry skin and lips, and is very thirsty.
  • Your child faints.
  • Your child refuses to eat or drink.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Learn more about Adrenal Insufficiency In Children (Discharge Care)

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