Epilepsy - what to ask your doctor - child
What to ask your doctor about epilepsy - child; Seizures - what to ask your doctor - child
Your child has epilepsy. Children with epilepsy have seizures. A seizure is a sudden brief change in the electrical activity in the brain. Your child may have brief periods of unconsciousness and uncontrollable body movements during seizures. Children with epilepsy can have one or more types of seizures.
Below are some questions you may want to ask your child's health care provider to help you take care of your child's epilepsy.
Having a brain seizure can be a terrifying experience. If you have a seizure more than once, you may have epilepsy, a problem with electrical activity in your brain. So, what causes epilepsy? For most people, the brain sends electrical signals throughout the body efficiently, in a coordinated way. In epilepsy, however, the normal pattern of electrical activity becomes disturbed. This causes the brain to be too excitable, or jumpy, and it sends out abnormal signals. The result is repeated seizures that can happen at any time. Epilepsy seizures usually begin between ages 5 and 20, but they can happen at any age. Common causes include Stroke, or a mini-stroke called transient ischemic attack; Dementia, or loss of brain function, such as Alzheimer's disease; Traumatic brain injury; Infections in the brain; Brain problems you are born with; or perhaps, a Brain tumor. Some people with epilepsy may have simple staring spells, while others have violent, uncontrollable shaking and loss of consciousness. Before each seizure, some people may have strange sensations, such as tingling, smelling an odor that isn't really there, or emotional changes. This is called an aura. Your doctor will perform a number of tests to find out if epilepsy is causing your seizures. One test, an electroencephalogram or EEG, checks your brain's electrical activity. Other tests can take detailed pictures of the part of your brain that is causing your seizures. Your doctor will most likely start treating your epilepsy with medication. These medicines, called anticonvulsants, may reduce the number of seizures you have in the future. Sometimes, changing the diet of a child with epilepsy can help prevent seizures. Your doctor will probably talk to you about making some changes in your life, such as reducing your stress, getting more sleep, and avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs. Surgery to remove a brain tumor or abnormal blood vessels or brain cells may make the seizures stop. Another surgery can place a Vagus nerve stimulator in your brain. This device is like a pacemaker for your brain that limits the number of seizures you have. For many people, epilepsy is a lifelong problem, and they'll always need to take anti-seizure medicines. There is a very low risk of sudden death with epilepsy. However, you, or someone else, can be seriously injured if you have a seizure while driving or operating equipment. If your seizures are uncontrolled, you should not drive.
What safety measures do I need to take at home to keep my child safe during a seizure?
What should I discuss with my child's teachers about epilepsy?
- Will my child need to take medicines during the school day?
- Can my child participate in gym class and recess?
Are there any sports activities that my child should not do? Does my child need to wear a helmet for any type of activities?
Does my child need to wear a medical alert bracelet?
Who else should know about my child's epilepsy?
Is it ever OK to leave my child alone?
What do we need to know about my child's seizure medicines?
- What medicines does my child take? What are the side effects?
- Can my child take antibiotics or other medicines also? How about acetaminophen (Tylenol), vitamins, or herbal remedies?
- How should I store the seizure medicines?
- What happens if my child misses one or more doses?
- Can my child ever stop taking a seizure medicine if there are side effects?
How often does my child need to see the doctor? When does my child need blood tests?
Will I always be able to tell my child is having a seizure?
What are the signs that my child's epilepsy is becoming worse?
What should I do when my child is having a seizure?
- When should I call 911 or the local emergency number?
- After the seizure is over, what should I do?
- When should I call the doctor?
Abou-Khalil BW, Gallagher MJ, Macdonald RL. Epilepsies. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 100.
Mikati MA, Tchapyjnikov D. Seizures in childhood. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 611.
Last reviewed on: 1/28/2021
Reviewed by: Evelyn O. Berman, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.