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Epilepsy In Children

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. An abnormal area in your child's brain sometimes sends bursts of electrical activity that cause his seizures. A birth defect, tumor, stroke, injury, or infection may cause epilepsy. The cause of your child's epilepsy may not be known. If your child's seizures are not controlled, his epilepsy may become life-threatening.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's health conditions and what medicines he takes. Tell him when your child's seizures occurred and how often. Your child's healthcare provider will also need a detailed description of your child's seizure. If possible, bring someone who has seen your child's seizure with you to your visit. Your child may need any of the following:

  • An EEG records the electrical activity of your child's brain. It is used to find changes in the normal patterns of his brain activity.
  • A CT scan or an MRI takes pictures of your child's brain to check for abnormal areas. He may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not let your child enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has anything metal in or on his body.

How is epilepsy treated?

The goal of treatment is to try to stop your child's seizures completely. He may need any of the following:

  • Medicines will help control seizures. Your child may need medicine daily to prevent seizures or during a seizure to stop it. Your child should not stop taking his medicine unless directed by his healthcare provider.
  • A special diet may be needed to control your child's seizures if medicine does not work. The diet may be suggested by your child's healthcare provider and monitored by a nutritionist.
  • Surgery may help reduce how often your child has seizures if medicine does not help. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information about surgery for epilepsy.

What do I need to know about epilepsy in children?

  • Give your child's medicine every day at the same time to prevent seizures and side effects.
  • Feed your child foods recommended by his healthcare provider or nutritionist. Your child may need to follow this diet if medicine cannot control his seizures.
  • Keep a seizure diary to help find your child's triggers and avoid them. Write down the dates of your child's seizures, where he was, and what he was doing. Include how he felt before and after. Possible triggers include illness, lack of sleep, lights, or stress.
  • Create a care plan. Tell family, friends, teachers, and healthcare providers about your child's epilepsy. Give them instructions that tell them how to keep your child safe if he has a seizure. Learn how to give your child rescue medicine during a seizure. Teach others how to give him medicine.
  • Find support. Your child may be referred to a psychologist or social worker. Ask about support groups for children with epilepsy.
  • Ask what safety precautions your child should take. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about bathing and swimming. He may also recommend you add bed rails or padding on the sides of your child's bed.
  • Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card that says he has epilepsy. Ask where to get these items.

How can I protect my child during an epileptic seizure?

  • Do not panic.
  • Note the start time of the seizure. Record how long it lasts.
  • Gently guide your child to the floor or a soft surface. Cushion his head and remove sharp objects from the area around him.
    First Aid: Convulsions
  • Place your child on his side to help prevent him from swallowing saliva or vomit.
    First Aid: Convulsions
  • Loosen your child's clothing around the head and neck.
  • Remove any objects from your child's mouth. Do not put anything in your child's mouth. This may prevent him from breathing.
  • Perform CPR if your child stops breathing or you cannot feel his pulse.
  • Let your child sleep or rest after his seizure. He may be confused for a short time after his seizure. Do not give him anything to eat or drink until he is fully awake.

How can I keep my child safe?

Your child may need to follow these safety measures:

  • Your child must take showers instead of baths.
  • Your child must wear a helmet when he rides a bike, scooter, or skateboard.
  • Do not let your child sleep on the top of a bunk bed.
  • Do not let your child climb trees or rocks.
  • Do not let your child lock his bedroom or bathroom door.
  • Do not let your child swim without an adult who is informed about his condition. Have your child use flotation devices such as a life jacket.
  • Tell your child's teachers and baby-sitters that he has epilepsy. Give them written instructions to follow if he has another seizure.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child's seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a seizure and is diabetic.
  • Your child has a seizure in water.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a second seizure that happens within 24 hours of his first.
  • Your child is injured during a seizure.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is depressed or has thoughts of suicide.
  • Your child's seizures happen more often.
  • Your child is confused longer than usual after a seizure.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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