Should I Take My ADHD Meds When I’m Sick?This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through any links that you click. This post may also contain sponsored links.
Adulting With ADHD Staff
When under the weather, you may ask yourself “Should I take my ADHD meds when I’m sick? Often it depends on how sick you are and what kind of sick. When in doubt, always ask your doctor.
When deciding if you should take your ADHD meds when you are sick, consider whether you need the medicine for tasks or emotional regulation. It may be more important to sleep. Other considerations include potential side effects from skipping, the type of illness you have, and any possible drug interactions.
You May Not Need Them Anyway
One case for skipping your medication is that if you’re too sick to work or study, you may not need them. This isn’t always the case – maybe they help with emotional regulation or parenting – but it’s definitely worth considering. If you don’t get side effects from skipping, having restful sleep may be more important and not as easy with ADHD meds.
Related: Surviving ADHD Without Insurance
Dr. F. Allen Walker tells Everyday Health that while it’s commonly okay to take brief breaks from ADHD meds on occasion, always consult your doctor first.
“There’s not really much of a risk involved in stopping medications periodically, says Walker.” It’s not something that I necessarily promote and encourage patients to do unless they’ve already been on the medication for a period of time, and they understand the benefits of the medication.”
If you can afford to truly take a day off and your life won’t go completely haywire without meds, then it’s probably a wise choice to take a break. It’s not that continuing to take them will hurt, but if you suffer from any of the side effects such as sleep or digestive issues, it’s just one less thing you’ll need to grapple with.
Sleep Is More Important
When you’re sick, often sleep is the most important thing you can do to get on a path to being healthy again. If it’s hard to sleep while your ADHD medication is active, then this could present an issue. You may decide a restful day without medicine is what you need right now.
Think the importance of sleep is an exaggeration? According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the importance is sleep is a very real thing that impacts your vital organs and blood.
“For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.”
While a sleepless night here and there isn’t cause for concern, it’s pretty universally recognized that sleep is critical to keeping your body in fighting shape. If laying off your ADHD meds while nursing a sickness is possible for you, it’s probably the best choice if your meds are going to prevent you from getting some much-needed rest.
You May Be Able To Skip Without Side Effects
Depending on what you are taking, you may or may not be able to skip without side effects. In my case, my doctor actually recommends I try to take a break from my Adderall XR on the weekends if possible so that they maintain their effectiveness. If your doctor has told you something similar, then you may decide it’s okay to skip on sick days as well. For me personally, if I’m not doing anything work-related and I’m sick enough to be in bed, I definitely skip.
Doctors Larry Silver and William Dodson tell ADDitude magazine that in some cases for adults, the symptoms actually dictate the level of medication coverage you need. This is something that needs to be worked out with the prescribing doctor, they add.
“Although some people need medication all day, every day, others need coverage only for certain activities, Drs. Silver and Dodson said. “Adults are likely to need coverage at the office and children are likely to benefit during the school day.”
This is really going to be you and your doctor’s call, although many people live perfectly fine lives while taking a break from ADHD meds here and there. However, there are some people who may not be able to, or they may need to weigh the risk against the reward.
It May Depend On The Illness
For some, taking ADHD meds on while having a cold is no problem. Some have even said it helps. However, the opposite can be true for sickness involving nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. The severity of your illness also comes into play: if you have a mild cold and have to go to work, it may be worth it to you to keep taking your ADHD meds.
Additionally, Adderall may cause digestive issues such as nausea, diarrhea and constipation. It’s not necessarily that you can’t take the medicine, it’s just that you may want to lay off of it until you’ve overcome that stomach bug.
For me, I usually trust my instincts on this one. If I’m so sick that I can’t even work, I’m probably skipping my meds as well. However, if I’m just having an annoyance like an allergy or cold and I still have a ton of things to knock off my to do list, I’m probably going to keep taking my ADHD medicine.
Whether or not you decide to take your ADHD meds while sick, having the right supplies on-hand while sick is essential. I prefer to do this online since it’s really hard to focus while sick. To stock up on your own schedule in your PJs, Walgreens offers free shipping for orders of $35 and free site-to-store pick-up. Free site-to-store pick-up also is available or if your medical needs are immediate, you can request same-day delivery from Postmates.
Consider Potential Drug Interactions
Arguably the most important factor to consider is whether you are taking any medications for your illness that could have harmful interactions with your ADHD medication. For example, according to Drugs.com, taking Adderall or the decongestant pseudoephedrine on their own can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. Taken together, this effect can be enhanced. The site, which classifies this as a moderately significant interaction, recommends avoiding the combination or only using it under special circumstances.
Speaking of drug interactions, if you’re thinking about chugging orange juice to build your immunity, you may want to reconsider according to ADHD coach Dana Rayburn, citing Dr. Charles Parker’s book New ADHD Medication Rules.
“So drinking that glass of orange juice or grapefruit juice when you take your Adderall or Ritalin is a no-no. Citrus messes with the long acting medications such as Vyvanse and Concerta, too, because they all start with a short acting boost to quickly kick your brain into gear.”
Rayburn acknowledges that your mileage may vary and that if you’re taking long-acting medication you probably can have citrus later in the day.
For ways to boost your immunity without OJ, The Vitamin Shoppe is the ultimate destination for all things supplements. Topping the list for immunity products are elderberry, oil of oregano, Oscillococcinum, and herbal teas. Free shipping is available for orders $25 and up, and you can save 10% off select brands for scheduling automatic delivery.
To learn more about how ADHD meds can impact your body, check out the following resources. No article is a substitute for the advice of a medical professional – when in doubt, ask your prescribing doctor whether you should skip your ADHD meds when sick.
Drugs.com – A listing of common ADHD meds, their interactions and other critical information. This is a good one to bookmark for when you’re taking cold and flu medicine or if you’ve been prescribed medicine for stomach bugs and other ailments.
CHADD – A guide to medication management and a primer of all things ADHD medication. Includes a handy chart on the most common ADHD medications and their dosages, durations and strengths.
ADDitude – Their ADHD medications section is a veritable clearinghouse for all things ADHD medications, both stimulant and non-stimulant. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to ADHD Medication.
New ADHD Medication Rules – This book demystifies all the confusion surrounding ADHD medication, from burn rates to over- and under-medication. A critical look at medication management written for patients to clearly understand.