By Daniel B. Kessler, M.D.
In my last blog, “The Medication Equation,” I talked about fears and hesitations you may have about the all-important decision of placing your child on medication. As a follow up, given the complexities of this decision, I’d like to offer answers to some of the most common questions developmental and behavioral pediatricians like myself receive surrounding meds.
The usual disclaimers should apply to this information as this is not intended to be medical advice for your child. Rather, it is intended as a great conversation starter with your own pediatrician.
Q: Why does the doctor change my child’s medication?
A: Although much is known about the use of medications to treat certain conditions like ADHD, each individual situation may involve some degree of trial and error. For example, if one drug fails to help a certain symptom such as hyperactivity, that is no prediction of whether another member of the same class of drugs might not be helpful. Your child is unique and so is his or her body’s response to various medications.
Q: What information should the doctor give me about the medication?
A: The doctor should tell you when the medication is expected to work. Some medications may work in 30 minutes while others may take eight weeks to be effective. You also should be told what side effects might be expected. For example, will the medication make your child sleepy? You should also be told if the medication might interfere with any medication your child is taking or might take in the future.
Q: How do I know if the medication is working?
A: Your child’s doctor will share what to expect if the medication is helping. You may wish to ask your child’s doctor specific questions such as, “Will it be easier for Amy to concentrate at school?” There might also be a measureable way to assess the effectiveness of the medication for the condition being treated, even if it is just a behavioral questionnaire.
Perhaps the most important point to share with you is that medication should be viewed as just one part of an overall treatment plan for your child – but it may be a very important and useful part! Do not be afraid to ask your child’s doctor for more information, as they are there to help you and your child.
Daniel B. Kessler, M.D., is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and medical director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals Southwest Human Development. His private practice, where he provides evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents, is located at Southwest Human Development.