A study published in 2001 in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that children with AD/HD were more likely to need medical care.
The investigators followed the medical histories of more than 4000 children for nine years. The median medical costs for the non-AD/HD children was $1944 as compared to $4306 for the AD/HD group. The AD/HD children had higher rates of accidents and medical illnesses than the children without AD/HD.
The AD/HD children were more likely to end up in an emergency room with an injury. They had more visits to their primary care doctors and to hospital clinics. They had more infections, asthma, and interpersonal problems.
It is interesting to note that the study did not count mental health visits or prescription drug costs. If these had been factored in, the cost difference might have been much higher.
Past reports have noted that adults and children with AD/HD are more likely to experience bone fractures, car accidents, and chronic medical conditions.
What can we learn from this data? Parents and teachers should be alert for situations that might put an AD/HD child at risk for injury. The very child who runs out to skateboard without helmet and knee pads is actually the child who most needs these safety devices. Childproofing should extend well beyond the baby years.
If your children are more likely to need emergency services, ask your child’s doctor about your local emergency rooms. Some emergency rooms are better than others at handling a young hyperactive child. Some hospitals have separate emergency areas for children and adolescents with doctors and nurses who specialize in treating children. Some may even provide a staff member to help with an active sibling while the parent is comforting the injured child. Other emergency rooms lack pediatric specialists and leave the parent and children to fend for themselves in an open noisy area with dangerous (but fascinating) medical devices all around.
Families affected by AD/HD must have access to insurance and adequate medical care. Those who are unable get insurance should get documentation of the child’s medical and psychiatric conditions and talk to their doctor about whether the child might qualify for one of the “gray zone” insurance programs.
Health care practitioners should screen AD/HD children carefully for non-psychiatric illnesses and spend time educating parents.