Coping with the side effects of children’s ADHD medications

If your child is taking medication for ADHD symptoms, you may hear some complaints about stomach pain or headaches. Some children have a decrease in appetite. Others begin to have difficulty falling asleep at night. These are common side effects of stimulant drugs.

Although side effects may occur, especially in the first few weeks of treatment, most of them will go away on their own as your child’s body adjusts to the medication. “For most children, the benefits of treatment outweigh any potential side effects,” said Michael Goldstein, MD, neurologist and vice chairman of the American Academy of Neurology.

At the same time, here are some simple strategies that parents can implement to minimize common side effects.


To help reduce stomach upset, let your child take the medicine with food or with meals.


As with stomach pain, taking medication through food may help relieve headaches. However, sometimes headaches may be caused by mineral deficiencies. Some children with ADHD are found to lack magnesium, which can cause headaches.

What the experts say

“It is also important to ensure that your child eats a balanced diet that is naturally rich in magnesium, B vitamins and other beneficial nutrients.”

— Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and writer

Loss of appetite

Provide your child with healthy, high-calorie snacks throughout the day, especially during periods of peak appetite. Here are some options you can try:

  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Cheese and biscuits
  • Protein bar
  • Hard-boiled egg and a slice of toast
  • Muffins and a glass of milk

In addition, you can discuss the dose of the medication you plan to take after meals with your child’s doctor.

hard to fall asleep

Sleep problems in children with ADHD are common. Sometimes stimulant drugs can affect sleep. Other times, the restlessness that accompanies ADHD can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Good sleeping habits are also very important. Make this time a special moment. Here are some useful tips:

  • Start to settle down at least about half an hour before going to bed. Although it may not be time for bed now, it is helpful to have your child engage in quiet activities. The transition from playing basketball or fast-paced computer games to going directly to bed can be difficult. Let your child participate in activities such as reading, puzzles or coloring to prepare for bedtime.
  • Establish a bedtime. For example, let your child go to the bathroom, wash his hands, brush his teeth, put on pajamas, listen to soothing music, read a book, and then say good night.
  • Stick to a regular schedule. Try to get your child to go to bed at the same time every night, and maintain a regular wake-up time in the morning.

If your child seems to have more trouble falling asleep after starting the medication, you may also want to ask the doctor if you can take the medication earlier in the day or stop taking the medication in the afternoon or evening.

Work with your child’s doctor

If these strategies do not reduce the side effects, be sure to consult your child’s doctor. Other side effects you should discuss with them include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • irritability
  • Convulsions (unconscious movements or voice movements, such as excessive blinking, making faces, muscle tension, coughing or clearing throat, etc.)

ADHD medications also have potential risks, and it is important to discuss this with your child’s doctor. For example, the non-stimulants Strattera (tomoxetine) and Qelbree (viloxazine) contain warnings about suicidal thoughts. Qelbree also warns about suicidal behavior, so it is important to monitor any changes in your child’s mood and behavior.

Be sure to discuss potential serious side effects and your child’s medical history with your doctor to find medicines that are safe for them, so you know what to look out for if anything happens.

Correct dosage and medication

Your child’s doctor may choose to prescribe different types of stimulants, as this may be an important factor in controlling side effects, especially sleep disorders and irritability/irritability.

Examples of this include:

  • Concerta (a long-acting drug of methylphenidate) can be used in the morning and short-acting Ritalin is added in the early afternoon to achieve coverage that lasts the whole day but disappears before bedtime.
  • A person may sometimes have more or less side effects on Ritalin (methylphenidate) With Adderall (mixed amphetamine salt).
  • Jornay PM (methylphenidate hydrochloride) is suitable for the treatment of ADHD in patients 6 years and older. Its special formula can slowly release its contents without affecting sleep, and then start to relieve the symptoms of ADHD when waking up in the morning.

These are all questions your child’s doctor can evaluate. Another factor your doctor may consider to help reduce side effects is to adjust the dose of the medication.

Very good sentence

If your child has just started taking a new medicine, rest assured that many of the initial, common side effects should disappear. However, in general, it is important for your doctor to understand what your child is experiencing while taking ADHD medications to assess whether any changes should be made to minimize its side effects.