Pediatrician Dr. Preston Herrington from San Juan Health Partners Pediatrics answers some questions about ADHD.

Q: What is ADHD?
A: ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a condition of the brain that makes it difficult for children to control their behavior.

Q: Who does it affect?
A: ADHD affects 4 – 12 percent of school-aged children; about 3 times more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD.

Q: Since you work in pediatrics, how do you know if child has ADHD? Are there very noticeable symptoms?
A: ADHD is diagnosed according to the symptoms found in the child. There is no blood test or other lab test to make the diagnosis. There are three broad categories of behavior symptoms:

  • Inattention: Most children and adolescents with ADHD struggle to pay attention, both at home and at school.
  • Hyperactivity. Some patients with ADHD have hyperactive symptoms, so they fidget, squirm, and cannot sit still easily.
  • Impulsivity. Many patients with ADHD have impulsive symptoms, so they act and speak without thinking, interrupt, and have trouble waiting their turn.
Based on these three categories of symptoms, patients with ADHD are categorized as either predominately inattentive, predominately hyperactive-impulsive, or combined type ADHD. In the past, predominately inattentive ADHD was referred to as ADD.

Q: Why is it a health issue?
A: ADHD is a mental health issue with significant effects on health and safety. Patients with untreated ADHD are at risk for accidents and later substance abuse.

Q: What treatments are available for ADHD?
A: ADHD is treated with behavior therapy or medications or the combination of the two. Behavior therapy is provided by psychologists and other counselors.

Physicians and some psychologists prescribe the medication therapy.
  • The main family of medications used in the treatment of ADHD is the stimulant family. This group of medications has a very long record of safety and effectiveness. Examples include Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta, Methylin, and others.
  • Most patients have no side effects, but occasional side effects include decreased appetite, sleep problems, headaches, and stomachaches.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents regarding ADHD?
A: Parents with questions about ADHD are encouraged to talk to their child’s physician. Also, I recommend the American Academy of Pediatrics website.

Q: Any last words?
A: Some miscellaneous questions sometimes come up:
  • Is ADHD genetic? Like many conditions, there is a genetic component to ADHD, so we do see ADHD more commonly in family members of those with ADHD.
  • Do kids outgrow ADHD? ADHD in adulthood is becoming more recognized. After high school, the young person with ADHD has more control of his or her environment and may or may not need to continue treatment for ADHD.