Clonidine, marketed as Catapres, belongs to a class of medication called antihypertensives. The original intent of this medication was to benefit adults by regulating high blood pressure or hypertension. Because Clonidine reduces hyperactivity by balancing brain activity, it has also been found to be effective in treating symptoms of ADHD. Additionally, it has been shown to decrease the tics of Tourette's syndrome. One of the side effects that makes it useful for treating ADHD symptoms is that it causes sedation or sleepiness. When taken at bedtime, clonidine may be an aid in helping your child's system to relax and shut down long enough to sleep through the night. Clonidine is available in three forms: pill, liquid, and a patch that can be adhered to the skin. A suggested dosage at which to start your child will need to be determined with your child's doctor.
For children or teens that have trouble swallowing pills (gagging or choking), it is permissible to carefully crush clonidine tablets and mix with a small amount of soft-consistency food. You may safely crush the medication by placing the pill inside a small plastic bag and pressing on the outside of the plastic with a spoon or other hard object to break the tablet into granules. Once the pill is crushed, it may be mixed with about one teaspoon of applesauce, ice cream, yogurt, jelly, pudding, or other soft, smooth food to make it easier to swallow.
A lot of kids may have trouble swallowing pills prescribed to support their mental-health experience. Coughing and gagging, choking, and spitting out half-dissolved tablets not only fails to get the medication into your child's system, it can create a really unpleasant, aversive situation for your child. Outside of medication times, try practicing swallowing pills by substituting very small candies, like mini M&Ms.
Remember that the pharmacist who fills your child's prescriptions is a terrific resource in answering any medication-related questions. The pharmacist may also be able to fill your child's clonidine prescription in liquid form. If this sounds like a better alternative, ask your pharmacist whether it's possible.
Clonidine is also available in a patch, though it is not usually used as a sleep aid in this form. The patch may be the best choice for kids who hate taking pills, but the clonidine patch's effectiveness as a sedative is decreased when the patch is used. The patch is usually used either for children who can't swallow meds and need a continuous effect, or for kids who get an up-and-down effect with multiple doses over the day (primarily kids with ADHD). The patch has also been shown to be a skin irritant in about 30 percent of the children who use it. When the patch is used, it may be best to change its placement to avoid the risk of a skin reaction. You may also wish to adhere the clonidine patch to your child's back if you suspect she might try to pull it off and discard it. Please know, too, that a used clonidine patch still has enough medication left in it to pose a poison hazard if a small child licks or chews it.
If clonidine is to be discontinued for use by your child, make certain that this happens in coordination with the doctor's plan for gradually tapering it from your child's system. If this does not occur, you risk causing your child to experience severe headaches or increased blood pressure. Other side effects range from mild to serious, and should be monitored very closely.
Side effects of clonidine may include dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, upset stomach and vomiting, weakness, bowel-related problems (constipation or diarrhea), trouble sleeping, tremors (hands, arms shaking), difficulty breathing, and chest pain. With regular use, the person taking clonidine may also develop a hypertensive crisis (severe and rapid elevation of the blood pressure) if they have been using clonidine regularly and then stop it abruptly. These are the side-effect symptoms that adults using clonidine have experienced. Please check with the doctor to see how they might compare in your child.
Did you realize that up to 80 percent of all prescription drugs have not been tested on children? Nearly all medications were synthesized for use in adult-sized bodies. Always know the exact potential side effects of any medication prescribed for your child and, when in doubt, contact the prescribing physician first. If that person is unreachable, call the Poison Control Center (at 1-800-222-1222), or call 911 if you believe your child is in an emergency situation due to side effects or overmedication.