The Drug Lithium

The Drug Lithium and Children

If you are a parent of a child with bipolar disorder, inevitably you will have to make choices about some pretty serious medications.

Lithium is frequently prescribed for children with bipolar disorder. If your child has been prescribed this drug it is very important for you to understand its side effects, how it should be monitored, and what signs would suggest lithium toxicity.

What can you do as a Parent to Minimize Potential Problems with the Drug Lithium?

It is important for you to get certain information from your doctor. Below is a list of questions for you to bring to your doctor to help insure your child is getting the best treatment.

  • Ask your doctor verbally for information about the drug lithium and its side effects
  • Ask your doctor for written information as well
  • .
  • Ask your doctor for written information regarding :

    What to do if you miss a dose?

    What medications and might interact with the drug lithium?

    What potential side effects your child may have?

    Carry this information with you everywhere and post it in areas of the home to remind you of how to handle each of these circumstances.

  • Ask your doctor what kind of baseline testing needs to be done prior to your child taking the drug lithium and to explain why that testing is done. Usually there are blood tests, urinalysis, thyroid functioning tests that need to be done. Doctors in my area have been known to skip important standard tests leading to later complications that could have been avoided.
  • Learn to recognize lithium toxicity

    If your child is having symptoms of:

    • Nausea and vomiting diarrhea
    • Tremors
    • Twitching spasms
    • Convulsions
    • Fainting or passing out

    This could be a sign of lithium toxicity. Call your Doctor or pharmacy immediately and ask them what to do.

  • Learn to monitor the side effects
  • Commonly reported side effects include:

    • Weight gain
    • Cognitive impairment
    • Bedwetting
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Weight gain
    • Clumsiness
    • Tremors.

    Sometimes doctors will reduce side effects by giving most of the lithium at night, or adjusting the times the dosage is given in some other way.

    Do not decrease your child’s lithium without doctor supervision.

    Therapeutic Range

    Lithium has a narrow therapeutic range, which means essentially there is a small window where it becomes helpful or useful and when it becomes toxic. Levels acquired from blood draws help doctors to determine how a dose needs to be adjusted and also when your child may be in danger.

    In order for levels to be accurate they need to be drawn twelve hours after the last dose. Most literature reports a level of .6-1.2 as being therapeutic for children but there is room even after 1.2 if side effects are carefully managed. Doctors will usually start children off between 300 -900 milligrams and steadily increase that until the desired effects are received. our child may be prescribed anywhere from 600-1500 mg of lithium.

    Why is my Child's Dose so High?

    Don’t compare adult dosages to those of a child because children often metabolize lithium differently and so the dose to weight ratio is higher for children.

    How Frequent are Blood Draws?

    When doctors start lithium in children, blood draws may occur as frequently as every week, the frequency of these tests will decrease as an optimum dose is reached. Other testing such as renal thyroid and urinalysis should be done every few months as well.


    Medical Disclaimer

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    Medical information obtained from our website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.

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