Possible Prozac Side Effects in Children

Side effects are often mild in children

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Currently, Prozac (fluoxetine) is the only approved selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication for children with major depressive disorder ages 8 and older. As such, it is a commonly prescribed medication for children with depression and sometimes bipolar disorder. Despite its proven success in the treatment of childhood depression, many parents and children alike are rightfully concerned with its potential side effects.

Common Side Effects 

Prozac is generally well-tolerated in children, and few stop taking it because of bothersome side effects. Prozac's side effects are often mild and short-lasting. If they occur, side effects usually happen at the start of treatment and often resolve within a few weeks without any need for additional intervention.

Common side effects may include:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea)
  • Sleep changes (e.g., insomnia, somnolence, vivid dreams, nightmares, impaired sleep)
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Restless legs
  • Appetite changes (increase or decrease)
  • Sedation

Less Common Side Effects 

Additionally, a small percentage of children who take Prozac may show increased impulsivity, agitation, or irritability. These symptoms appear to be more likely to appear in children with, or who are predisposed to develop bipolar disorder. Be sure to let your child's provider know if she has ever experienced a manic or hypomanic state, or if there is a family history of bipolar disorder.

Serious Side Effects

Although rare, Prozac is associated with certain more serious side effects. If you notice any of the following in your child, contact your healthcare provider immediately:

  • Panic attacks (e.g., difficulty breathing, racing heartbeat)
  • Symptoms of mania (e.g., racing thoughts, pressured and fast speech, excessive risk-taking)
  • Unusual changes in behavior or mood
  • Problems with coordination

Increased Thoughts of Suicide in Children Taking Prozac

In addition to some of the other serious side effects mentioned above, the FDA has issued a public warning about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in children and adolescents up to age 25 who are taking SSRI antidepressant medications.

Read more about suicidal ideation and self-harm in youth, including thoughts about suicide or dying and suicide attempts or self-injury.

However, results of a recent research review indicate that the benefits of antidepressants most likely outweigh the risks for children and adolescents with major depression and anxiety disorders. Thus, like all medications, the decision to start treatment with a SSRI should carefully weigh the expected benefits and risks, including potential side effects, of the drug. 

Although most side effects of Prozac in children are usually mild and temporary, all side effects, regardless of severity, should be thoroughly discussed with your child's clinician.

Knowing what to expect from your child's depression treatment helps with the compliance that is essential for recovery.

While many side effects may resolve with time, a child should not suffer unnecessarily from additional complications. There are many depression treatment options that can help minimize the potential for these side effects. You and your child's doctor should work together to figure out the best treatment.


Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. National Institute on Mental Health. Accessed: July 27, 2010. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/antidepressant-medications-for-children-and-adolescents-information-for-parents-and-caregivers.shtml

Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273

Boris Birmaher, MD, David Brent, MD, et al.Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Depressive Disorders. The Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 46(11). November 2007. 1503-1526.

Eli Lily. Product Monograph: Prozac. August 07, 2008. 

Food and Drug Administration. Medication Guide: Prozac.http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm088999.pdf