Children's epilepsy resource for Families

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Frequently Asked Questions



What causes Epilepsy?

In many cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown. In others, the epilepsy may be linked to an illness such as meningitis, a malformation of the brain, problems with a child's metabolism or damage to their brain. This damage can be caused by such things as a severe head injury or a difficult birth. Epilepsy may also be caused by a gene or genetic factors.


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Will my child grow out of their Epilepsy?

This depends on what Epilepsy Syndrome your child has and its cause. Some epilepsies occur in childhood and of these, about a third disappear in adulthood.  Other epilepsies continue throughout life. There are some Epilepsy Syndromes with a very good prognosis for the future. Your Doctor may be able to give you information on the likely outlook for your own child. 


Staying positive is important and finding out as much as you can about the condition will help you build up confidence. This will enable you to respond better to your child’s needs. Try not to be over protective or concentrate all your time on the child that has epilepsy.


Negative reactions are most likely when people are afraid or don't understand epilepsy. We believe openness and honesty are the best ways to combat any stigma surrounding epilepsy.


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Does Epilepsy affect Behaviour and Learning?

Children with epilepsy do have an increased risk of behavioural and learning problems. However, It is important to remember that simply because a child has epilepsy, it does not follow that every other problem is also related to their epilepsy. Sometimes social issues could affect your child’s behaviour such as stress, emotional upset, and boredom.


Children with epilepsy have a higher rate of learning disorders than the general public. Some problems can result from seizures themselves – information may be missed; memory problems may keep information from being stored in the brain. Other learning problems may be related to medication. If your child is having problems learning, speak with the teacher about obtaining an educational assessment. This assessment may help to identify specific learning problems. Interventions can be developed to improve your child’s performance at school.


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What do I do if my Child is Bullied or Teased?

Some children with epilepsy are picked on at school. This may be because the other children do not understand epilepsy. Talk to your child's teacher if you are worried and make sure your child knows they have your support and encouragement to stand up for themselves.


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Will Playing Electronic Games (iPhone, Computer, X-Box) cause my Child to have a Seizure?

Only a small percentage of people may be susceptible to seizures when exposed to flashing lights or light patterns such as when playing games or watching videos. This is known as photosensitive epilepsy. To reduce this possibility, ensure your child plays in a well-lit room and lower the brightness of the display. Also ensure they avoid continuous exposure to the same patterns or playing when they are excessively tired. If your child feels like they are going to have a seizure they should stop and keep future exposure to short bursts with breaks every 10-15 minutes.


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Is it Okay for my Child to Play Sport? Will they be Safe?

When considering choice of sports, you need to think about how much your child’s risk will be increased and decide whether the increase is acceptable. It is good for your child to do as many “normal” activities as possible. Which ones are okay depends on the child, the type of seizure and how often they happen, whether the child has a warning before the seizure and the surrounds in which the activity will take place.


Sports like soccer, basketball and even football are okay for most kids with epilepsy. The advantages of being on a team generally outweigh the slight chance of injury. Activities like horse riding, high diving or some kinds of gymnastics are safe only if your seizures are well controlled.


Water sports, however, require much more vigilant supervision. Swimming in a pool in the lane closest to the pool edge and with adult supervision can usually be managed safely in a child with well controlled epilepsy. Swimming in a river or the surf pose greater risks. If a seizure occurs in these circumstances and consciousness is lost, there is a high risk of drowning unless there is an immediate rescue. It is definitely not advised in poorly controlled epilepsy.


Your Doctor may be able to give you advice, but only you and your child can decide how much risk is okay.


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Should I tell my Child’s teacher if they have Epilepsy?

If your child does not have seizures during the day and is not experiencing any behaviour or learning problems, you may not need to tell anyone at school, but it is wise to do so as the seizure pattern could change. On the other hand, teachers certainly need to know about seizures that occur during the day, as they have a duty of care for your child. The teacher can also play a vital role in helping to manage your child’s epilepsy. Information about seizure activity, medication side effects or any change in behaviour during the school day will be very valuable to you and your Doctor.



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What happens if my Child has a Seizure at night?

As with all seizures, day or night, you should have a plan of what to do in a seizure. You can also discuss medication with your Doctor to see if seizure control can be improved.


It is possible for a child to be injured during a nocturnal seizure. Take common-sense precautions: for instance, make sure there are no sharp or potentially dangerous objects near the bed. If your child has all or most of her seizures at night, discuss the timing of her medication with your Doctor.


Some parents sleep with their children so they will know if their child has a seizure at night. While this may be reassuring in the short term, both you and your child will eventually need some privacy. Other options are:

  • Use a baby monitor.
  • Place the child’s bed next to a wall beside your room.
  • Share bedroom with sibling.
  • In the morning, look for signs that your child may have had a seizure, such as unusual fatigue or bedwetting.

None of these options are perfect. They can cause false alarms which can add to anxiety. It is important that you find an option that bests suits your family. There is currently no foolproof seizure detector device but research continues. You may continue to inquire from your paediatrician/neurologist regarding developments in this area. 


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Will Seizures become worse at Puberty?

Some forms of epilepsy have their onset at puberty for both genders. Alternatively, childhood absence epilepsy tends to completely resolve at puberty. It is not true that seizures will definitely worsen at puberty.


The reproductive hormones, progesterone and estrogen, are active in the brain and can have some affect on seizures for some with epilepsy. Research has shown that estrogen may permit seizure occurrence while progesterone generally prohibits seizure occurrence.


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This page was created in March 2012 and last reviewed on October 13th 2014.




Epilepsy Action Australia; Epilepsy 360o - June 2011


Cynthia Harden, MD – Neurologist, Weill Cornell Epilepsy Centre


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