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Tics in Children: Care Instructions


Tics are repeated sounds, jerks, or muscle movements, such as in the arms, neck, or face. Repeated clearing of the throat, sniffing, excessive blinking, and shrugging the shoulders are examples of tics. They tend to come and go in spurts. And they may get worse when your child is stressed or tired.

Your child may feel an urge that gets stronger before doing the tic. Your child may be able to control the tic, but only for a short time.

Tics may be mild, or they may be severe enough at times to get in the way of daily activities. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to help manage mild tics. Your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as medicines or therapy, if tics are severe enough to get in the way of your child's daily life. Habit reversal is a kind of therapy that helps your child become aware of tics and do things in place of the tics.

Tics may go away on their own within a year. In some children, tics may become chronic, which means they last longer than a year.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Remember that your child cannot control the tics. Although tics can appear to be "on purpose" and may frustrate you, do not show frustration or punish your child for having tics. Give your child plenty of love and support.
  • Keep a record of your child's tics and what triggers them. After you find out what causes certain tics, you can help your child avoid those triggers. For example, you may find ways to help your child manage stress.
  • Notice when your child's tics get worse. Reassure your child by staying calm and helping your child to relax.
  • Encourage your child to increase responsibilities at your child's own pace. Helping your child keep a manageable schedule can help with stress.
  • Give your child free time after doing tasks or chores.
  • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine, use it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.
  • Talk to your child, your family, and your child's teachers about what tics are and how they're managed.
  • Ask your child's teachers to make helpful changes at school. For example, ask if they can:
    • Give your child a seat with few distractions and some privacy.
    • Give your child more time to take tests if needed.
    • Allow for rest periods if needed.
    • Allow your child to leave the room at times to deal with severe tics in private

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child's tics are frequent or severe enough to get in the way of school or daily activities.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.