Epilepsy in Children
MANAGING EPILEPSY IN CHILDREN
Epilepsy causes convulsions and affects approximately one in every 200 people. The most common causes of a convulsions in children is a high fever, but this is not normally a form of epilepsy somehow runs in families intermarriage in two such families increases the risk of epilepsy in the offspring, and genetic counseling may be helpful .
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a tendency to have seizures, also known as convulsion. These are caused by bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In some children, there are several months between the attacks, while in others attacks can occur daily or every few days. With treatment, most children grow out of epilepsy by adolescence. There are several different types of epilepsy. The two common forms in childhood are absence seizures and major seizures.
These are characterized by loss of consciousness lasting only a few seconds. In this case, the child does not fall and there are no abnormal movements. But the child will look blank and unresponsive and is probably unaware that he has had a seizure. Symptoms to look out for are:
Sudden lack of movement
- Dazed expression
- Complete recovery in a few seconds
In this case, consciousness is lost suddenly, making the child fall down. The loss of consciousness is characterized by stiffness of all the muscles of the body followed by jerking of the body and limbs. The child‘s breathing is interrupted and he may froth from the mouth or bite his tongue. He may also urinate on himself. This seizure does not usually last for more than five minutes. At the end of the seizure, the child gains consciousness, normal breathing resumes and his muscles relax. A Child who has suffered a major seizure will suffer a severe headache therefore. It is therefore advisable to let him sleep for a while.
Symptoms to look out for in a major seizure include:
- Sudden unconsciousness, so your child falls down
- Stiff arms and legs
- Twitching or jerking movements
- Sleeping, or gradual return to consciousness, when the twitching movements stops.
Its important to note that in some children flicking or flashing lights can provoke an attack .it is therefore important to make sure that there are no malfunction fluorescent tubes in the house or a flickering television.
When your child has a seizure
Incase child suffers one of these seizures ,place him on his side on the floor and stay with him to make sure that he does not injure himself ,but do not restrain him.
- Do not try to pry open his mouth, or try to give fluids.
- Try to avoid letting your child get into situations that could be dangerous if he has seizures. For example put a guard at the top of the stairs and do not leave him alone in the bath.
- Do not let him go for a swim or bicycle ride or any other activity that could be potentially dangerous, unaccompanied. However, do not be over protective.
- He should not feel that his condition makes him abnormal.
- Take him to hospital if he gets a major seizure for the first time or one that lasts more than three minutes.
- Also, consult a Doctor if he suffers from a series of seizures in rapid succession. If you suspect that he has absence attacks, consult the doctor too.
- If your child is of school going age, it is advisable to let his teachers understand how to react and what to do in case he suffers a seizure.
- If you are not confident enough to give the correct information, get help of a doctor to do so.
- It is also important to let anybody you leave your child with, such as a house girl, understand his condition and the precautions to take if the child suffers an attack in your absence.
Treatment of epilepsy
Epilepsy can frequently be controlled well by anti-convulsants drugs. These drugs are a variety, suite for each type of epilepsy.
- It’s essential to give your child the prescribed drugs without missing doses and regular intervals each day, since this is the only way to effectively control the seizures.
- If unhappy with any treatment your child may be getting, do not be hesitant to see a specialist or seek a second opinion.
- Depending on how your child fares treatment using anti-convulsants drugs usually continue for two to three years after his last seizure.
- With time, many children eventually outgrow the tendency to suffer from epilepsy making medication unnecessary.
PARENTING THE CHILD WITH EPILEPSY
You and your child
It is always a shock for a family to learn that a child has epilepsy. But out of the initial shock and dismay you can build an understanding, loving and accepting environment in which your child can grow, believing in his own ability to succeed in life
HOW YOU FEEL
Like most parents you are concerned about your child’s future. You may find it difficult to accept the word” epilepsy” or talk about it. You may feel angry, depressed, inadequate and even guilt. It may seem to you that in some obscure way you have failed as a parent. Overcome your anxiety by becoming informed- the more you learn about epilepsy, the easier it will be to accept the condition
WHY MY CHILD?
Knowing what epilepsy is and why a seizure occurs still doesn’t explain why it has happened to your child. You may be concerned that something in your or your spouse’s genetic makeup may have caused the epilepsy to develop and that the condition is therefore someone’s fault. In fact unless an individuals family history shows a strong recurring pattern of epilepsy, it is most that an inherited factor was responsible.
POSSIBLE CAUSES OF EPILEPSY
A common cause of epilepsy is head injury. This may occur during childbirth or from a blow to the head sustained in infancy or childhood. Fever convulsions, encephalitis or meningitis are the culprits in some cases but even childhood measles may lead to the child developing seizures. However, in most cases the cause is totally unknown aka idiopathic epilepsy.
VISITS TO THE DOCTOR
An experienced professional who specializes in children with epilepsy probably knows that your mind tried to block out the word “epilepsy” from the first moment that he mentioned it. The doctor is well aware that you have received a major shock. You probably have a hundred questions so before subsequent visits to the doctor, while you are relatively calm, you should write down questions that need to be asked. The doctor will prescribe medication based on the age, physical condition and type of seizures experienced by your child. Remember that anti-convulsant medication does not cure epilepsy, but in most cases reduce the number of seizures or the severity of the seizures. Only your doctor can decide when and if to change or decrease your child’s medication, but you are more than welcome to seek a second or even third opinion.
WHAT DO I TELL MY CHILD
The child should be made aware of the condition. Children as young as three can understand that the brain is in control of the body and that sometimes the brain sends an incorrect message to the body. Older children should be given a more comprehensive explanation. If the child is old enough he will probably ask you” why me?” and you will have to answer openly and honestly that you don’t know. It must however be made very clear that it has nothing to do with anything that the child did that was ‘bad’
YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
The anger, depression and possible guilt that you are experiencing will pass. Husbands and wives should be a source of strength and comfort to one another at this time. You both need to be equally involved in your Childs medical and social progress at all times. Tension within the family is the last thing that the family needs at this time. Children pick up on parental tension and the child does not need the additional burden of knowing that his seizures are causing a rift in the family or between his parents. Inform close relatives and your child’s friends.
DO I TELL HIS TEACHER?
The fact that child experiences seizures should under no circumstances be kept hidden from the teacher and other responsible school officials. The teacher may be apprehensive and it is therefore all the more important that you take time to explain the condition and any possible fist aid procedures. Don’t forget that the teacher is your stand in while your child is at school.
USEFUL HINTS ON PARENTING THE CHILD WITH EPILEPSY
- Ensure that your child receives a comprehensive medical assessment by a qualified professional
- Always emphasize your Childs abilities. Concentrate on what your child can do rather than what he can’t.
- It is your duty to learn as much as possible about the condition
- Be open and honest about the condition both with yourself and with your child
- Emphasize any activity that will improve your child’s self-acceptance, self worth and self-confidence
- Educate family and friends epilepsy is only an ‘illness” when viewed through the eyes of the uninformed
- Equip your child with the correct information about their seizures so that proper care is administered to them while they are in seizure. This will allay unnecessary fears
- Always ensure that medication is administered and taken regularly
- Provide a set routine with plenty of rest, three balanced meals per day and regular exercise.
- A regular routine helps to limit seizures
- When explaining seizures use words that your child will understand. This will remove some of the mystery surrounding epilepsy
- Always remember that there are 365 days in a year. If your child has one seizure per week, that leaves 313days for your child to like a full life.
- Don’t ever allow your to use seizures as an excuse for getting out of doing chores or accepting responsibility
- Don’t ever use epilepsy as an excuse for lowering your expectations of your child
- Don’t talk about behind closed doors or as if they are not present
- Don’t use or encourage the use of negative words such as ‘epileptic’ ‘suffer’, ‘attacks’ and ‘fits’.
- Don’t overprotect your child. Overprotection will stifle and smother the child’s initiatives.