Editor’s note: Any medical advice presented here is expressly the views of the writer and Red Tricycle cannot verify any claims made. Please consult with your healthcare provider about what works best for you.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition where bursts of electrical activity in the brain cause abnormal behavior symptoms. These include muscle spasms, the sensation of pins and needles, fainting, and seizures. Epilepsy can be a complex and overwhelming diagnosis, especially in children, so here’s a short breakdown of what epilepsy means for young people, so it doesn’t need to be.
Comorbid conditions, such as ulcers and headaches, may occur with your child’s epilepsy and should be monitored by your child’s health care provider. Evidence also suggests children with epilepsy have a higher risk of developing mood disorders, like anxiety and depression. Regular meetings with a counselor can help assist your child in minimizing these risks.
Triggers to Watch
Most seizures are random with no discernable pattern to help warn us when they’ll strike. So, it’s important to know what triggers to watch for. Triggers include a fever of 102 degrees or more, flashing lights, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and stress or anxiety. If a seizure does occur it’s important to remain calm while you perform seizure first aid. If you’re unfamiliar with the proper steps, schedule an appointment with their care provider to have one on one instruction.
When your child is diagnosed with epilepsy, doctors usually prescribe an antiepileptic drug. It’s common to try many different prescriptions before finding the right one. Other treatments such as the keto diet, vagus nerve stimulation or surgery may also work. Many parents choose to try alternative treatments, like using herbs and vitamins. It’s good to remember that each child is unique and what works for one may not work for the other.
Epilepsy in School
For most children, epilepsy does not inhibit them from attending school. Some children may have seizures in class and there’s a strong chance their teachers are not familiar with epilepsy. This is an opportunity to educate them. At the beginning of each school year, you can schedule an appointment with your child’s teacher and school nurse. This is the time to go over their needs and an emergency plan if any seizure does occur. Mention your child’s seizure triggers and warning symptoms so their teacher knows what to look for.
Sports and Activities
Epilepsy is unique for every child and so are their safety boundaries. When deciding what sports and activities are suitable for their needs it’s necessary to first consider a few factors. Seizure frequency, medication side effects, and level of adult supervision will help determine their ability to take part. Activities such as swimming, bicycling, horseback riding and climbing are not off limits, but they pose some risks. Always speak with your child’s health care provider before signing them up for sports.
Managing a child’s epilepsy is tough, don’t try and do it alone. One of the most important things you can do for your child and you are building a support system. Establishing a routine with the whole family can keep everyone prepared and on the same page while lightening your load. Making sure your child gets their medication on time with good sleep each night is especially important with epilepsy. When things get overwhelming there are many support groups and other family services available to assist you. Remember, you can’t effectively care for anyone else without first caring for yourself.