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How To Explain A Seizure To A Child

A Gillette patient gets ready for an EEG.

Experiencing a seizure for the first time can be scary, especially as a child. As a parent, explaining what is happening and what will happen is the best way to put worries at ease. Understandably, you may not know much about seizures yourself. The providers and staff at Gillette Children’s are here to help. Whether it is giving exceptional care, answering tough questions or listening to your concerns, we will be with you, your child and your family every step of the way.

The most important thing to remember is that children who experience seizures can lead fulfilling, healthy lives. Talk positively about their diagnosis and use simple terms that are easy to understand. Remind them that it’s okay to be scared. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their feelings. And as a parent, it is okay if you don’t have all the answers yourself. Gillette can help you find them.

Your child’s provider can talk with you both about the signs to look out for when it comes to having a seizure. Seizures can be mild or severe, as they take on many different forms. For example, your child might experience repetitive, jerking movements. They could have a loss of consciousness. Others “zone out” and have a change in breathing patterns. Everyone is different, but your child’s provider will be able to point out specific patterns that can flag an upcoming seizure.

A Series Of Tests Can Provide Families With Answers

During a first seizure evaluation, our goal is to determine if there are any other factors at play. Was the seizure unprovoked? What triggered the seizure? Is there a possibility of epilepsy? All of these questions, and more, will be answered after running a series of tests. The seizure type, cause and risk of having more seizures can be determined by a team of nurse practitioners and pediatric neurologists who specialize in this area.

If your child already has an existing complex medical condition, they will also have a neurology evaluation, in addition to the first seizure evaluation. This is typically done using Electroencephalography (EEG). After the EEG, your child’s provider can talk about what precautions your child should take and how to address these seizures moving forward.

When all of the necessary evaluations are completed, the team at Gillette will come up with an appropriate treatment plan. For some children, this simply means monitoring them. For others, medication might be the right response. It is all unique to the situation and depends entirely on the results. During this time, it is totally understandable for a child to be anxious and on edge. However, this is the best time to get clear answers.

Armed With Knowledge, Patients Can Discuss This Manageable DiagnosisGeorge Jamison, right, is pictured with his brother.

George Jamison, a Gillette patient pictured above (left), was standing in line for lunch when he had his first seizure. Since his father had one seizure when he was younger, but then never again, doctors were hoping George would follow a similar path. But, two weeks later, George had one again. An EEG showed abnormal electrical charges, which were the cause of his seizures. After an epilepsy diagnosis, he was given medication to manage his seizures and give his brain time to heal.

While he went two years without a seizure, he eventually had one again. While a seizure can happen at an inconvenient time, the most important thing he and his family realized was that this is a manageable, lifelong condition. It means having conversations with your teachers, family members and friends.

Barbra, George’s mother, said, “We spent a lot of time talking about epilepsy, with everyone. The nice thing was that [the staff] at Gillette empowered George from the very start when it came to talking about his condition.”

George stated, “I remember that my teacher had me sit down to talk with my third-grade class. It wasn’t anything over the top, but I just got a little time to talk about what epilepsy was, what seizures are and explain what to do if I ever had one.” In finding out more information from his family and his provider, he felt more comfortable about the road ahead.

Treatment is a process. As a child gets older, medications need to be adjusted. Plans change. However, Gillette Children's won’t let you do this alone. With the necessary tools and information at your fingertips, you can help your child understand what it means to have a seizure.