Zoloft For Kids: Safety, Side Effects, Dosage, And Precautions

check_icon Research-backed

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

The brand Zoloft is the name of a generic drug, sertraline hydrochloride. The drug belongs to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) family and is prescribed as an antidepressant (1). While administering Zoloft for kids with depressive symptoms, weighing its benefits against risks is important.

Serotonin is a message transmitter between nerve cells and induces wellbeing and stabilizes the mood. The drug increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. As a result, doctors prescribe Zoloft for treating severe depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and anxiety issues.

Read on to know about the safety guidelines of Zoloft for children.

Is Zoloft Safe For Kids?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of Zoloft for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years (2). Children should take Zoloft only when prescribed by a doctor.

OCD is a long-term psychological disorder characterized by unwanted thoughts or images that repetitively come to the mind and cause anxiety (obsessions) along with recurrent, irresistible behavior (compulsions). For example, a child with OCD may have a constant fear of germs, leading to excessive hand-washing (3).

What Is The Dosage Of Zoloft For Children?

Zoloft is available only upon prescription from a doctor, who decides the optimum dose for your child and may gradually increase or decrease it if necessary.

This psychiatric medication is started at a minimum dose, and based on the tolerability, the dosage may be increased weekly. It is given once daily, either in the morning or evening.

Zoloft is available as tablets containing 25mg, 50mg, and 100mg of Sertraline hydrochloride and an oral solution containing 20mg drug per mL of solution. The dosage for children and adolescents is as follows (2):

IndicationAgeStarting dose (mg/day)Maximum dose (mg/day)
OCD6-12 years25200
13-17 years50200

You may dilute Zoloft oral concentrate by taking the required amount and adding it to half a cup of water, ginger ale, lemon soda, lemonade, or orange juice before offering it to your child.

What Are The Side Effects Of Zoloft In Children?

The common side effects of Zoloft include (4)

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Shaking of body
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive tiredness (fatigue)
  • Feeling nervous or agitated
  • Excess sweating
  • Decreased appetite

Contact your child’s doctor if any of these symptoms worsen.

Zoloft can also cause some serious adverse reactions. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any of these side effects in your child.

  • Epileptic fits
  • Breathing problems
  • Abnormal bleeding, such as nose bleeds
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Allergic reactions such as hives and rashes
  • Fever, hallucination, and weakness
  • Confusion

What Are The Contraindications Of Zoloft?

Zoloft should not be taken if the child is allergic to Sertraline. Some other drugs that are contraindicated to be used concomitantly with Zoloft include (1)

  • SSRIs, SNRIs (serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors), triptans, tricyclic antidepressants, fentanyl, buspirone, tryptophan precursors, and St. John’s Wort. These drugs may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome (excess serotonin in the body) and cause agitated mental states with hallucinations or coma, muscle rigidity, seizures, flushing, and changes in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as selegiline, phenelzine, tranylcypromine, linezolid, and intravenous methylene blue. A switch, if necessary, from Zoloft to MAOIs should be done after a minimum of two weeks.
  • Pimozide, which is used to treat Tourette syndrome, as it could increase blood levels and risk of arrhythmias (changes in heart rhythms).
  • Antabuse (disulfiram) used to treat alcohol addiction. Zoloft oral concentrate contains 12% alcohol, which may react with the drug.

Precautions To Take When Using Zoloft

Besides the brain, Serotonin affects various other tissues and cells, such as the gastrointestinal tissues, blood cells, and platelets (5). As Zoloft acts by modulating serotonin levels, certain precautions need to be exercised (2) (4).

  • Inform your doctor if your child has any heart complications, bleeding disorders, or epilepsy.
  • Sertraline is metabolized by the liver; thus, blood concentration may increase in the cases of liver disease. So, ensure the dose of the medication is adjusted by the doctor every week.
  • The FDA suggests screening for bipolar illness or manic disorder and taking the family history for suicides, depression, and bipolar disorder before administering Zoloft. Zoloft may cause manic or depressive episodes or suicidal tendencies.
  • At the start of treatment, Zoloft may slow down reactions and cause sleepiness. So, be cautious when the child is riding a bicycle or doing tasks that require alertness.
  • This medication should not be administered with drugs that reduce blood clotting as it increases the risk of bleeding. These drugs may include aspirin, warfarin, heparin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as diclofenac, ibuprofen).
  • Consult a healthcare provider before the child uses any over-the-counter medication, herbal preparation, or health supplement.
  • All medications should be kept out of children’s reach.
  • In case a dose is missed, do not give a double dose the next day. The symptoms of overdose can be severe.
  • The dropper dispenser of Zoloft oral concentrate is made of dry rubber. Make sure your child is not allergic to it.

Zoloft is an effective drug for OCD in pediatric patients. When coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy, it helps improve their quality of life. However, it may take a few weeks before the full effects show; thus, do not stop the medication abruptly if no improvement is seen. Always consult with your doctor before making any dose changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Zoloft cause aggression in children?

A study indicates that SSRIs may lead to an increase in aggression. However, increased aggressiveness is not seen in all individuals but may happen for a few. If you notice such symptoms in your children, you should contact your child’s doctor promptly (6).

2. Does Zoloft help with attention?

Zoloft is not found to affect attention negatively; however, it may improve one’s ability to process more than one piece of information at a time (7).

3. Does Zoloft cause hyperactivity?

Zoloft (sertraline) is less likely to cause hyperactivity in children when compared to other SSRIs, such as fluoxetine (8).

Zoloft for kids is usually prescribed when they exhibit certain signs of depression or stress disorders. If you notice signs of epileptic fits, hallucinations, or breathing problems in your child, contact the doctor immediately. The doctor prescribes the dosage based on the symptoms and reduces it if there is an improvement in the condition. It should be noted that depression usually leads to suicidal and other self-harming thoughts. Therefore, you should always watch your child’s activities and talk to them about their feelings.

Key Pointers

  • Zoloft or Sertraline is FDA approved to treat OCD in children above six years.
  • You should give Zoloft to your child only if a doctor prescribes it.
  • Dryness of mouth, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety, and sleep disturbances are some of the common side effects of Zoloft.
  • Avoid using any OTC preparations or herbal drugs when your child is on Zoloft without consulting a healthcare professional.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Zoloft®.
    https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/019839s070
  2. Zoloft.
    https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/019839S74S86S87_20990S35S44S45lbl.pdf
  3. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children.
    https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/ocd.html
  4. Sertraline.
    https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a697048.html
  5. Junhua LV and Feng Liu; (2017); The Role of Serotonin beyond the Central Nervous System during Embryogenesis.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5346549/.
  6. Aggressive Behavior Induced by Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) During the First Month of Treatment.
    https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00361062
  7. Thomas Günther, et al., The influence of sertraline on attention and verbal memory in children and adolescents with anxiety disorders.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16190792/
  8. Antidepressants.
    https://www.utmb.edu/pedi_ed/GENPEDS/ADHD/page_19.htm
Was this information helpful?
thumbsupthumbsdown
The following two tabs change content below.

Dr. Joyani Das

Dr. Joyani Das did her post-graduation from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and PhD in Pharmacology. Previously, she worked as an associate professor, faculty of Pharmacology, for two years. With her research background in preclinical studies and a zeal for scientific writing, she joined MomJunction as a health writer. Her research work was published in international journals and publications, such... more

Maria Carmela Villania-Mamauag

(MD, DPPS)
Maria Carmela Villania-Mamauag is a board certified diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society with a degree of Doctor of Medicine from Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City and a Bachelor in Science in Psychology from Saint Louis University, Baguio City which was augmented by a year of Bachelor in Science in Family Life and Child development at the University... more

LATEST ARTICLES