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Understanding Epilepsy in Children

One of the most misunderstood conditions that affect more than 5 million Americans nationwide is epilepsy. Epilepsy is the most common childhood brain disorder in the United States and causes recurrent seizures. Thankfully, approximately two-thirds of all children with the disorder outgrow it before they reach their teens.

Why Seizures Happen

There are many conditions that can cause a seizure to occur in a child, some of which include congenital conditions, head injuries, fever, infection, stroke, brain malformations and in rare cases, tumors. In addition, it is estimated that one-third of children with autism spectrum disorder may have seizures. Children under age 2 are at a higher risk for seizures because the risk factors that can cause seizures are more prevalent.

How Epilepsy is Diagnosed

Children who have had two or more unprovoked or recurrent seizures on more than one occasion may be diagnosed with epilepsy. The diagnosis will be made if their doctor feels they are likely to have another seizure and if the seizure is not caused by any other medical condition. If seizures do recur, immediate medical attention is essential. Children should also see a pediatric neurologist to help manage their epilepsy.

What to do if my child has a seizure

There are several types of seizures that can occur, ranging from convulsions and loss of consciousness to momentary disruptions of the senses. The most widely recognized is called a tonic-clonic seizure. In this seizure the body loses consciousness, muscles stiffen, eyes roll back in their head and their body begins to jerk or convulse.

If a tonic-clonic seizure occurs the most important thing to do is remain calm and to keep the child safe. This means laying the child on their side and removing any sources of danger including sharp objects. Pay attention to the length of the seizure. If it lasts longer than normal or appears they are having multiple seizures, seek medical attention. Never put anything in the child’s mouth and respect their privacy by keeping bystanders away. Only one additional person is needed to help deliver first aid. Any more than that and the child may become embarrassed.

Living with Pediatric Epilepsy

Having their child diagnosed with epilepsy can be a very scary thing for a parent to experience. It is important that parents and other caregivers track seizures to help uncover any potential triggers that may cause the seizure to occur. Notating what the child was doing before the seizure started, how they behaved during the seizure and what happened after it is extremely important.

Treating Epilepsy in Children

Upon diagnosis of epilepsy in children, medication is often prescribed as the first line of treatment, however, finding the right medication can take some time. Taking medication does not mean the child will not have seizures, it means they may occur less frequently. It also doesn’t mean they will need to take medication forever. If a child stops having seizures for several years, they may be able to stop taking the medication. Stopping medication should never be done without the recommendation and supervision of a doctor.

While most people know what a seizure is, there are a lot of misconceptions and stigmas associated with those having the condition. The general lack of knowledge about the condition can cause lifestyle limitations for the child. If your child is diagnosed with epilepsy, help educate others on the disorder. This can greatly impact their ability to enjoy a normal life.

Want more pediatric parenting tips? Visit the Rainbow Pediatrics blog here.