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    You are in >  Hyperactivity and ADHD
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    For our son, Richard
     
    What is ADHD?
    This page will deal predominantly with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in children. If you suspect you suffer from the Adult version of ADHD please visit this site AdultADD.com, and take their online test.

    ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with ADHD may have hyperactive behaviour, a lack of attention and difficulty concentrating. Most children with ADHD have signs of both hyperactivity and attention problems. Some children, though, may have only signs of inattention. This kind of problem used to be called attention-deficit disorder (ADD). ADD is now thought of as a form of ADHD.


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    Tell tale signs
    Hyperactive children with ADHD have had problems with hyperactive, impulsive behaviour since before age 7. Mothers of children with ADHD sometimes even remember that their baby was very active in the womb. Also, children with ADHD are often described by their parents as having been fussy and difficult to quiet as babies.

    Signs of a lack of attention
    Difficulty following instructions
    Not seeming to listen to parents or teachers
    Not being able to focus on activities
    Frequently losing things needed for school or at home
    Not being able to pay attention to details
    Appearing disorganized
    Being unable to plan ahead effectively
    Being forgetful
    Appearing very distractible


    Is your child's behaviour a problem in several different settings?
    ADHD is less likely if your child only shows behaviour problems at home, but not in other places, such as at school or at the grocery store. ADHD problems often become worse where there is more activity and noise. Children with ADHD show some of the signs of hyperactivity in several different settings, for example, in the classroom, on the playground, and at home watching TV. (Children with ADHD are often able to stay focused on the fast pace of cartoons and video games. But even though their eyes are on the screen, they're fidgeting with their arms and legs.)

    When your child is misbehaving, does he or she seem to be off in "another world"?
    Children with ADHD cannot control at least some of their hyperactive, impulsive behaviour. Suspect ADHD if your child appears off in "another world" and does not respond to you when he or she is climbing or misbehaving in some way. In contrast, children who misbehave on purpose often will look to see how adults react to their misbehaviour.

    Are you more angry with your child or more frustrated?
    Sometimes it's normal for parents to get angry with their children, especially when they misbehave on purpose. The hyperactivity of children with ADHD is irritating, but parents can sense that their child simply can't--as opposed to won't--sit still or quiet down. The parents feel more frustrated than angry.

    Can your child stick to activities, or is the house full of unfinished games and projects?
    Children with ADHD often lose interest in an activity in 5 minutes--or even less. They go from one activity to another, and another and another. You may ask your child many times to clean up, but he or she will not even be able to focus long enough to do that.

    Has disciplining your child worked?
    Parents of children with ADHD usually have "tried everything"--from ignoring their child's misbehaviour, to "time-outs," to spanking--but nothing seems to work

    Diagnosing a child as hyperactive
    Not the easiest thing to do. Very often doctors and psychologists will disagree about the diagnosis of a specific child. Don't accept a final diagnosis of your child until ALL the information available has been presented. It is crucial to talk to school teachers, nursery teachers, adults the child is exposed to in social activities, family members and any other people who work with or teach your child on a regular basis.

    Also, ADHD children or suspected ADHD children have on average, higher IQ's than their peers. So to complicate matters, the patient is also often given to misleading diagnosis for personal reasons. This is not common, but should not be forgotten when considering an ADHD diagnosis.
     


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    Risk Indicator

    Risk from this type of condition is minimal. A danger exists that the condition, if left untreated or undiagnosed, can result in the impaired development of a child resulting from learning difficulties. Please have your child tested at the earliest opportunity if you suspect the child might be hyperactive or suffer from ADHD

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    Triggers

    Additives have been linked with ADD, so try to limit your child's intake of additive-laden products, particularly those that contain the colourings tartrazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110), ponceau 4R (E124) and erythrosine (E127) and the preservatives E210, E320, E321 and E219 (benzoic acid and its salts). Although research hasn't shown such clear links between sugar and caffeine and ADD, foods and drinks that contain lots of rapidly absorbed sugar, especially if they also contain caffeine, as colas do, can make children appear wired. A hydrated body assists concentration, so rather than giving your child a sweet, fizzy drink, encourage them to drink lots of water. Provide other healthier alternatives: instead of a chocolate bar, give them fruit (which provides a source of slow-release sugar); and serve them meals that contain a healthy balance of slow-release carbohydrates (in the form of pasta, rice and wholegrains) and vegetables and proteins.

    If you suspect that a specific food - oranges, for instance - triggers behavioural changes in your child, keep a very detailed food diary (in a low-key way in case your child starts using the issue of food against you) of everything that they eat and drink and how they're behaving. If you then think that you've identified a connection, seek advice from a professional before cutting anything out of your child's diet. The last thing you want is for their bad behaviour to be exacerbated by a lack of vital nutrients.


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    What helps?
    Perhaps the most significant recent research finding in relation to ADD is the link between certain fatty acids and behaviour. The brain contains high levels of highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), particularly DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eiosapentanoic acid). These are thought to play a vital role in the way in which the brain transmits signals, especially those that regulate moods and behaviour, to the body. Because studies have found that the brains of children suffering from ADD seem rather low in these fatty acids, it's worth increasing your child's intake of HUFAs.

    The richest source is oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herrings and fresh tuna (unfortunately, the tinning process involved with tuna removes the majority of the beneficial fish fatty acids). Salmon fishcakes with a yoghurt and chive dip, fresh tuna sandwiches, jacket potatoes with tuna toppings or pasta sauce made with tuna, olives and tomatoes, smoked-mackerel flans and pÔtÚs thinly spread over 'soldiers' are therefore all good foods to include in your child's weekly diet.

    Your child may rebel against having oily fish a few times a week, however, in which case you may need to enlist the aid of supplements that contain both EPA and DHA. You can buy these from pharmacies and health-food stores, but because the suitable dose for your child depends on their age and other factors, I'd advise you to discuss the issue with a dietician or doctor before handing out supplements like sweets. (If your child is vegetarian, try sprinkling linseeds on cereals or using linseed oil in salad dressing. These are a particularly rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid which is then converted to EPA).

    As with allergies, a product or treatment can cure or help one individual and yet have no effect on another. This adds to the frustration felt by many parents and sufferers. The important thing is not to become discouraged. Keep a diary of foods, exclude certain products, wait a while, and then try again. There are great support forums out there, where you will find a lot of sound advice and feedback from other parents and sufferers. Try the new Allergy forum, for posting ADHD related questions.


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    Medication

    What medicines are used to treat ADHD?
    Some medicines used to treat attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are called psycho stimulants. Some of these drugs are methylphenidate (brand names: Concerta, Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (brand names: Dexedrine, Dextrostat) and pemoline (brand name: Cylert). Although these medicines have a stimulating effect in most people, they have a calming effect in children and adults with ADHD.

    Other types of medicine sometimes used to treat ADHD include clonidine (brand name: Catapres), desipramine (brand name: Norpramin), imipramine (brand name: Tofranil) and buproprion (brand name: Wellbutrin).

    Do the medicines for ADHD have side effects?
    All medicines can have side effects. Psycho stimulants may cause a decreased appetite, a stomach-ache or a headache. The loss of appetite can cause weight loss in some people. This side effect seems to be more common in children. Some people have insomnia (trouble sleeping). Here are some ways to avoid side effects (like a fast heart beat, chest pain or vomiting) when taking psycho stimulants:

    Use the lowest possible dose that still controls the hyperactivity. Your doctor will tell you the right dose.
    Take the medicine with food if it bothers your stomach.
    Plan to use the weekends as drug-free days. This means, don't take any ADHD medicines on Saturday and Sunday. Ask your doctor before you try this.
    Children who lose weight while taking medicine for ADHD can have extra healthy snacks during the day.


    How should medicine for ADHD be taken?
    It's important to take the medicine just the way your doctor says--not more often and not less often. Follow your doctor's advice even if you think the medicine isn't working. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you think the medicine isn't working.

    It's best to take the medicine 30 to 45 minutes before a meal. Good times to take this medicine are before breakfast and before lunch. Lunch-time doses can be given at school for some children. If your child can't take this medicine at school, tell your doctor. Your doctor might suggest a long-acting form of the medicine instead. The long-acting form of this medicine should not be crushed, broken or chewed before swallowing. The long-acting forms are taken only once a day, right before breakfast.

    It's also important to know that some of the medicines used to treat ADHD are called "controlled" drugs. There are special rules about the way controlled drugs can be prescribed, because these drugs could be used the wrong way. The prescriptions for controlled drugs, like methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine, must be refilled at the drug store every month. At some doctors' offices, these prescriptions are only written on 1 day of the month.

    Will the medicines also help with other problems?
    The medicines used to treat ADHD have been shown to improve a person's ability to do a specific task, such as pay attention or have more self-control in certain situations. It is not known whether these medicines can improve broader aspects of life, such as relationships or learning and reading skills.

    How long will this treatment last?
    People with ADHD should be checked regularly by their doctors. During these check ups, the doctor will want to hear what the parents have to say about a child with ADHD. Your doctor may suggest that your child take a break from his or her medicines once in a while to see if the medicine is still necessary. Talk with your doctor about the best time to do this-- school breaks or summer vacation might be best. The teacher's comments about the child are also important. The doctor will want to check a person with ADHD after the medicine dose has been changed. The length of time a person takes the medicine depends on each person. Everyone is different. Some people only need a short treatment, for 1 to 2 years. Some people need treatment for years. In some people, ADHD may continue into adolescence and adulthood.
     


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