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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Can You Prevent ADHD?

Though there is no way to prevent ADHD, there are ways to help all children feel and do their best at home and at school.

Can good prenatal care help to prevent ADHD?

Complications of pregnancy are linked to ADHD. You can increase the chance of your child not having ADHD by staying healthy throughout your pregnancy. A healthy diet and regular doctor visits are important. So is avoiding the use of alcohol and drugs.

Children whose mothers smoked while they were pregnant are twice as likely to develop ADHD. Some studies suggest a pregnant woman's exposure to lead, as well as lead exposure in early childhood, may be linked to ADHD. Other studies are exploring the possible connection between premature birth and ADHD. 

Does diet play a role in preventing ADHD?

Giving your child a healthy, balanced diet from an early age is good for all children, whether or not they have ADHD.

Some experts believe that altering a child's diet may reduce hyperactive behavior. Ben Feingold developed a popular diet designed to lessen hyperactivity. It is an elimination diet that targets artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. The medical community hasn't accepted the diet, and some studies have disproved Feingold's theory. Still, many parents who have tried the diet reported an improvement in their child's behavior.

There is no scientific proof linking ADHD to sugar. Processed sugars and carbohydrates may affect a child's activity level by rapidly raising blood sugar levels. This blood sugar spike may produce an adrenaline rush that could cause a child to become more active, followed by a "crash" in activity and mood as the adrenaline levels fall.

Parents are encouraged to try cutting certain foods from their children's diet if they feel the foods affect behavior negatively. Some experts, though, think that behavioral changes may be due to the way the families interact with each other while they're on an elimination diet. The child's behavior may improve -- not because of the diet, but as a result of getting more attention from the parents.

It's important not to go too far. Being too restrictive with your child's diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Dietitians and doctors can help you make a healthy eating plan for your children.

Can structured routine help in preventing ADHD?

All children, and especially those with ADHD, can benefit from structured routines and clear expectations. 

Post a daily schedule where your child can see it, so they know what to expect. This daily schedule should include specific times for such activities as:

  • Waking up
  • Eating meals
  • Playing
  • Doing homework
  • Doing chores
  • Watching TV
  • Taking part in after-school activities
  • Going to bed

Once the schedule is set, follow it as closely as possible each day. If there are going to be any disruptions in the schedule, explain them in advance to your child. Though posting a schedule doesn't prevent ADHD, it should help improve your child's ability to stay on task.

For older children, with or without ADHD, having a homework routine in place can make the after-school time more effective. Set aside an area away from distractions for doing homework. Taking small breaks during homework time can also help, especially if your child is hyperactive and has difficulty staying focused.

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