If a child doesn't seem to listen or can't sit still, it's
not surprising that parents might wonder if it's something more than
The number of children diagnosed with ADHD – Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder – is on the rise, according to recently released figures.
As of 2011, about 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 were diagnosed with
ADHD. That's up from 7.8 percent in 2003.
"It's unclear why the number of cases keeps increasing—whether
it's more awareness on the part of doctors or parents, which leads
to more diagnoses, or if there truly are more kids who have ADHD,"
Sinda Althoen, MD, a pediatrician with
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Santa Ana.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 6.4 million children
have been diagnosed with ADHD. Boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed,
and the average age of diagnosis for all children was 7.
Researchers have said ADHD might be caused by a combination of genetics
and of environmental issues such as smoking and drinking alcohol during
If you are concerned that your child might have ADHD, Dr. Althoen suggests
talking with your pediatrician. Your child's pediatrician may refer
you to a specialist who can review your child's health history and
observe him in different settings.
"There are many red flags for inattention, impulse control or hyperactivity.
Some children are more affected by an inability to focus on tasks while
others have more trouble with non-stop motion," Dr. Althoen says.
"Usually a child must have the symptoms for at least six months and
those symptoms must be noticeably more intense than in their peers. The
symptoms must be present in more than one setting. The doctor will want
to hear about your child's behavior at school, at home, and in other
structured settings. Your doctor will carefully evaluate for other medical
issues, learning disabilities, or social stressors (such as divorce, a
new school, or a new sibling) that can cause a temporary increase in behavioral
Many children with ADHD may benefit from a stimulant medication. These
medications can improve attention span and help control impulsive behavior.
Children also benefit from counseling and accommodations in the classroom
setting. Medications may be prescribed by a pediatrician, a psychiatrist,
or a neurologist.
"Like any treatment, it is important to know the potential side effects
of any medication you give a child," Dr. Althoen says. "The
doctor will adjust the dosage or type of medication to treat the symptoms
of concern and minimize side effects."
no cure for ADHD, but the goal is to help a child learn to cope with the disorder
and have the tools to successfully navigate through life, Dr. Althoen says.
For more information about St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, click
here. For more information about Dr. Althoen, click
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.