My child has epilepsy

Did you know?

The gravest issue for a child with epilepsy is that people do not know enough about it, are afraid of it and do not talk about it (as if it were a taboo).

The discovery that those we hold dearest have epilepsy is difficult to accept and there are usually many questions about how and why this happened to our child. In such moments it is good to know that the onset of epilepsy in childhood or adolescence has a very good outlook.

Causes of childhood epilepsy

There are many possible causes of epilepsy in children, but the cause is unknown in almost three quarters of patients. Epilepsy in young people differs from the condition in adults because:

  • the kinds of seizures are more diverse and occur in combinations; there are many subtypes (forms) of epilepsy and forms of seizures, as well as causes and treatment outcomes;
  • the condition may change over the years; one type of epilepsy can transition into another;
  • it can have a significant impact on learning and on social and behavioural development.

The emotions of a child and family may be strongly effected by a diagnosis of epilepsy. It is important for children and adolescents to know that well-controlled epilepsy will not prevent them from attaining their life goals.

Febrile seizures do not mean epilepsy

Childhood febrile seizures are a special form of seizure, but they do not mean epilepsy. They are a common phenomenon among infants and toddlers, caused by a rapid increase of body temperature in the developing brain. Most commonly, they occur only once, but may recur.

Treatment of childhood epilepsy

Treatment of epilepsy is not easy. Despite the wide range of available medications, the ultimate goal of complete prevention of seizures is still not possible for a quarter of affected children. The appropriate medication administered at the correct dosage completely prevents seizures in at 5 out of 10 children.

A paediatric neurologist or a paediatrician with additional training can best choose the right medication and determine an appropriate dosage. It is important for the child to take the medicine exactly as prescribed by the specialist, because this is the only way to achieve adequate control of seizures.

Information for family and friends

A diagnosis of epilepsy carries a significant emotional impact for the child as well as for the child’s family and relatives. All children are supposed to be happy. Epilepsy should not cause major problems in their lives. The gravest issue for a child with epilepsy is that people do not know enough about it, are afraid of it and do not talk about it (as if it were a taboo). The family can help with clear answers to child’s questions about the disease, and if necessary, by seeking help from a neurologist.

Children and adolescents suffering from epilepsy should be aware that they can do many of the same things as their peers. They also want to be active and able to take care of themselves.

Childhood with epilepsy

Children and adolescents with epilepsy can participate in a variety of activities. They should only avoid activities that may be especially dangerous: climbing without protection, diving and parachuting.

If the disease is well controlled, there is no reason why an epileptic child should attend a different school. Teachers must be informed of the child's illness and about measures to be taken in the event of a seizure. At the beginning of the school year, you can give teachers the “Epilepsy Information Card” (available in Slovenian under the title “Kartica s podatki o epilepsiji”).

It is not harmful to watch television and play computer or video games. The only exception is for children who have epilepsy due to sensitivity to light (photosensitivity) flashing with a certain frequency, as they may suffer a seizure due to flashing light (at a discotheque, while watching television, playing video games or using a computer), which is why they need to be more cautious.

Children with epilepsy can travel using all kinds of transportation. The type of transportation (aircraft, train or car) will not by itself exacerbate epilepsy, but may cause stress and lack of sleep, and consequently trigger a seizure.

First aid in the event of seizure

A person who does not know how to act when an epileptic has a seizure, may experience severe distress. It is necessary to explain to close friends and family members how to act when the child is having a seizure.

The content of this article has been created on the basis of the “My Child has Epilepsy” brochure (available in Slovenian under the title “Moj otrok ima epilepsijo”) by members of the Slovenian League Against Epilepsy, reviewed by Asist, Natalija Krajnc, MD, paediatric specialist, paediatric neurology specialist. Publisher: Medis, d.o.o.

Download booklet