When Your Child Has Graves Disease

Your child has been diagnosed with Graves disease. This means he or she has an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). Thyroid hormone is important to the body's growth and metabolism. But with too much thyroid hormone, the body's processes may speed up or overreact. This can cause a variety of symptoms. Graves disease is treated with medicines, radiation, or surgery. Below are instructions for caring for your child.

Medicine instructions

Your healthcare provider will talk with you about medicine options for your child. Anti-thyroid medicines work by blocking the release of thyroid hormone. Other medicines, such as a beta-blocker, can be used to control symptoms.

  • Give your child his or her medicine exactly as directed. 

  • Give the medicine at the same time every day. Keep the pills in a container that is labeled with the days of the week. This will help you remember if you’ve given the medicine each day.

  • Try to give the medicine with the same food or drink each day. This will help you control the amount of thyroid hormone in your child’s body.

  • Don’t stop giving medicine for any reason. If you do, your child’s symptoms will return. Only make changes to the medicine routine as your child’s healthcare provider instructs.

  • Keep a card in your wallet that says your child has Graves disease. Make sure it has your name and address, contact information for your child’s healthcare provider, and the names and doses of your child’s medicines. Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet with the same information.

Keeping track of symptoms and side effects

During your routine visits, tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any symptoms of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism). This can be a side effect of treatment. Also tell the healthcare provider if your child has symptoms of too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Tiredness or low energy

  • Puffy hands, face, or feet

  • Hoarseness

  • Muscle pain

  • Slow heartbeat (less than 60 beats per minute)

  • Feeling unusually cold when others feel comfortable

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Restlessness

  • Fast weight loss

  • Sweating

  • Fast heartbeat (more than 100 beats per minute)

  • Feeling unusually hot when others feel comfortable

Keep watch for medicine side effects. Your child may have itchy skin. Or your child may have more serious symptoms such as ongoing nausea or vomiting, yellowing of the skin, or muscle pain. Let the healthcare provider know if your child has any new symptoms.

Eye care

  • If your child's eyelids are swollen, use extra pillows in bed to prop your child’s head up. Sleeping with the head elevated may reduce eyelid swelling.

  • Protect your child’s eyes from dust and drying wind. If your child is old enough, he or she can wear glasses with side guards to protect the eyes.

What is remission?

Remission is when signs of a disease go away. Remission of Graves disease is more common in children and adolescents. But it can take a long time. Remission is more likely if anti-thyroid medicine isn't stopped until the thyroid has returned to its normal size. If remission doesn’t occur in your child, other treatments may be considered. Your child’s healthcare provider may talk with you about surgery to remove most of the thyroid or radioiodine therapy.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff. Make and keep appointments for your child to see his or her healthcare provider and have blood tests. Your child will need to have blood test for the rest of his or her life to check hormone levels.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call the healthcare provider right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Sleeplessness, anxiety, or tremors

  • Feeling sweaty and hot, even when others nearby are comfortable

  • Shortness of breath

  • Trouble focusing the eyes

  • Bulging eyes, staring, or infrequent blinking

  • Weight loss for no obvious reason

  • Fast heartbeat (more than 100 beats per minute)

  • Enlarged thyroid gland at front of neck (goiter)

  • Diarrhea