Side Effects of ADHD Medication

Medications are often a key part of child ADHD treatment, but they can cause side effects. Find out which side effects to watch for and what to do about them.

Medically reviewed in June 2022

Medications help many children manage ADHD symptoms, but it's important to know that they can also cause side effects. While most possible side effects (such as loss of appetite or drowsiness) are not serious, others (such as severe mood changes) may be more concerning. Likely side effects depend on the type of medication, the patient's age, and their medical history. Discuss the risks of particular medications with your child's doctor and be sure that you know what warning signs to watch for. Report anything unusual to your child's doctor promptly. The doctor can adjust the timing or dosing of medication—or switch your child to a different medication—if the side effects are too severe.

Small Changes May Help
If your child's medication causes fairly mild side effects, lifestyle changes may help. For example, loss of appetite is the most common side effect of many ADHD medications. Your pediatrician may recommend feeding your child a big, healthy breakfast prior to taking morning medications and encouraging your child to eat snacks and lunch at school, even if he isn't hungry. If medication causes headaches or an upset stomach, taking it with food may help. Talk with your child's doctor about any mild side effects your child experiences and ask about changes you can make to soften them.

Something More Serious
Serious or worrisome side effects require immediate input from a doctor—don't wait for your next appointment. For example, some medications may cause insomnia, which can worsen ADHD symptoms, so address sleep troubles promptly. If ADHD symptoms seem to be getting worse, or your child shows signs of depression, irritability, or agitation, make an appointment quickly.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Regardless of what medication your child takes for ADHD, a healthy lifestyle may help minimize medication side effects. Be sure your child gets regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and eats a healthful diet focused on lean protein and high-fiber carbs, with few sugars and artificial ingredients.

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