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Hypothyroidism in Children: Care Instructions

Front view of the thyroid


Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Low levels of this hormone can cause many body functions to slow down.

Failing to grow normally is the most common sign in children. Hypothyroidism can also cause your child to feel sluggish, gain weight, and have a poor memory. It may also be hard for your child to focus his or her attention. The symptoms of the disease can be similar to depression.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in children. In this condition, the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The thyroid has to work harder to make enough hormones. This can cause an enlarged thyroid gland that can be seen at the front of the neck. This is called a goiter.

Your child needs to take thyroid hormone medicine every day. Your child also should have a blood test at least once a year. This checks to be sure he or she is taking the right amount of medicine. Your child will keep taking medicine to replace the hormone that the thyroid gland doesn't make.

Hypothyroidism can be a serious disease. But children usually do well after they start treatment. Most parents notice that with treatment, their children have increased energy, are in a brighter mood, and do better at school. Children also start to grow normally again.

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?

  • Have your child take his or her thyroid hormone medicine at the same time every day. Most doctors suggest taking it 30 minutes before breakfast. Your child should not take it with vitamins or calcium or iron pills.
  • Have your child see his or her doctor at least 1 or 2 times a year. Your child will need regular blood tests. These tests make sure that he or she is getting the right amount of thyroid hormone.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy diet with plenty of calcium. Foods that are rich in calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, and dark green vegetables.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a low body temperature (35°C or below).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child feels tired, sluggish, or weak.
  • Your child has trouble remembering things or concentrating.
  • Your child does not feel better even though he or she is taking medicine.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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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.