Epilepsy in Children


What are some parenting challenges you might face if your child has epilepsy?

The challenges of parenting are compounded if your child has epilepsy. Not only do you have the normal concerns about raising a child; now you have to make allowances for epilepsy.

This article details common concerns facing a parent who has a child with epilepsy, and how to handle them.

Procedure Details

How do children deal with epilepsy?

It's natural for a child who has a chronic illness or who is different from other children to feel resentful. Children with an illness such as epilepsy might develop emotional problems, such as poor self-esteem, anxiety, or depression. These problems might come from within (anger, embarrassment, frustration), or from outside. (Children with epilepsy might be teased by other children.) Anxiety and depression are seen frequently in children with epilepsy sometimes even before the child has the first seizure.

How can I help my child deal with these feelings?

As a parent, you can help your child deal with these feelings in the following ways:

  • Make sure your child understands as much as possible about his or her disease.
  • Try to get your child to be positive about his or her disease and focus on things he or she can do.
  • Don't let your child's illness prevent you from disciplining him or her if necessary.

As for your other children and the rest of your family:

  • Be sure your other children understand their sibling's illness. If they are feeling neglected, try to spend more time with them.
  • If you think it's necessary, seek family counseling to help everyone understand how to deal with the illness.
  • Let your extended family know about your child's illness and answer any questions they might have.
  • Discuss any of these concerns with your child’s doctor.

What should I know about children and epilepsy medicine?

If your child is taking medicine, you can work with your child's doctor to make sure your child is taking the medicine correctly. Some things to be attentive to include the following:

  • Learn the schedule for the medicine (how many times a day to take it, whether it should be taken with food, etc.).
  • Find out what to do if your child forgets to take a dose of medicine.
  • Know if any of the medicines require blood tests.
  • Be aware of the potential side effects of the medicines and what to do about them.
  • Ask the doctor what to do if your child is ill and/or has a fever. (Fever sometimes brings on seizures.)
  • Make sure your child's school knows that he or she takes epilepsy medicine, and that arrangements are made for him or her to take it at school (if necessary).
  • Make sure the school has a seizure rescue plan in place.

What else can I do to protect my child?

Every child with seizures is different. Recommendations for activities need to take into account the seizure severity and cognitive (intellectual) abilities of the child:

  • Your child can ride a bike or rollerblade whenever the seizures are well-controlled, but always needs to wear a helmet.
  • Climbing is not recommended for children with seizures.
  • Monitor your child anytime he or she is near water, whether at home or outside.
  • Your child can participate in team sports and school camps as long as his/her seizures are well-controlled and the coach is aware that the child has epilepsy. Football is not recommended because of the risk for head injuries.
  • Your teenager child should not drive if he/she is having seizures. Diving recommendations vary from state to state, so check with your physician or Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
  • Your child should not sleep in the top bed on a bunk bed.

Additional Details

Here are some water safety tips for inside the home if your child has epilepsy:

  • Keep an eye on your child while he or she is in the bathtub.
  • Bathroom doors should be unlocked for safety reasons. The rest of the family needs to understand your child’s need for privacy in the bathroom.
  • Check the bathtub drain to make sure it's working properly.
  • Keep the water in the tub at low levels.
  • Keep the water temperature low to prevent scalding.
  • Install a shower or tub seat with a safety strap in the tub for older children.
  • Keep all electrical appliances away from the sink or bathtub.

Water safety tips outside the home:

  • Don't let a child with epilepsy swim alone. The person swimming with your child must remain within arm-length distance.
  • Make sure all adults, including the lifeguards and swimming instructors, know that your child has epilepsy.
  • If your child has a seizure while swimming, get him or her out of the water as soon as possible and check his or her status. If anything seems wrong, contact the doctor right away.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/21/2013.

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