Q: What is epilepsy?
A: Epilepsy means that sometimes the electrical signals in the brain don’t work quite right. When that happens, a person with epilepsy will have something called a seizure. Some kids have a kind of epilepsy that makes them have something called a tonic clonic seizure. These kinds of seizures make the person fall down on the ground and shake all over. It might look a bit scary, but it doesn’t last very long, and the person is okay afterwards. There are other kinds of seizures that are not as big, and not as noticeable.
Q: Why do some kids have seizures?
A: Kids have seizures when there is a change in how their brain is working. The brain sends messages to different parts of the body. Your brain might send a message to your feet to tell them to move, or to your eyes to close when you are tired. When someone has a seizure, the messages in the brain get too strong, and start moving too fast. The messages get all mixed up, and then the person has a seizure.
Q: How do you get epilepsy?
A: Doctors don’t know how kids get epilepsy. Some people start having seizures because they have been in an accident and have hit their head really badly. Other kids might start having seizures if they’ve been very, very sick and their brain gets an infection.
Q: Can I catch epilepsy?
A: No, you can’t catch epilepsy or pass it around. It’s just something that some kids have and some kids don’t. You can’t get epilepsy from hanging around with someone who has it.
Q: Does it hurt to have a seizure?
A: Having a seizure doesn’t hurt. A person having a seizure might get hurt if they hit their head when the seizure starts. That’s why it’s really important to move things out of the way if you see someone having a seizure. What hurts most though is when someone is having a seizure and people watching say mean things or make fun of the person having the seizure. It’s important to remember that kids with epilepsy are no different from you, and that they have feelings just like everyone else.
Q: Can you swallow your tongue when you have a seizure?
A: No, a person with epilepsy can’t swallow their tongue when they are having a seizure. Their tongue is attached to their mouth just like yours. When someone is having a seizure, they might bite their tongue a little, or start to choke on their saliva. That’s why it’s important to turn the person on their side if they are having a seizure, so they don’t choke on their saliva. It’s also really important to NEVER put anything in the person’s mouth.
Q: Can you die from epilepsy?
A: No, epilepsy is not a disease, it’s a condition, and no, kids won’t die from it. Very rarely, a person with epilepsy might have one seizure after another, after another. This is very serious and the person should be taken to the hospital. But kids usually have medication they take to help control their seizures, so that won’t happen to them.
Q: What should I do if I see someone having a seizure?
A: The most important thing is to stay calm! If there’s a grown-up nearby, someone could run and get them. Don’t leave the person alone when they are having a seizure. Move hard objects out of the way, and put something soft like a jacket, underneath their head. When the person stops shaking, you should roll the person on their side. You don’t need to worry or be scared, because the seizure isn’t hurting the person, and they will be okay in a few minutes. When someone is having a seizure, they might lose control of their bladders and wet themselves. This is not something to laugh at or make fun of. Just cover them with a jacket or blanket so they don’t have to be embarrassed when the seizure is over.
Q: Can epilepsy be cured?
A: There is no cure for epilepsy, but sometimes when kids get older, they stop having seizures. Even if they don’t stop having seizures, there are pills they can take to keep the seizures undercontrol.
Q: Can you drive a car or get a job?
A: People with epilepsy can get jobs just like anybody else. There are some jobs that might not be safe for people with epilepsy, like being a lifeguard, or a pilot. Lots of very famous or successful people have epilepsy, and that didn’t stop them from doing what they wanted to do. If a person with epilepsy wants to get a driver’s license, they might need a doctor’s note to say that they have not had a seizure in the past year. People with epilepsy can also get a license if they only have seizures while sleeping, or if their seizures are completely controlled by medication.
Q: How often do seizures happen?
A: This depends on the type of seizures, and whether the person is taking medication for the seizures. Most people who are taking medication for their seizures only have a seizure every few months, but it depends on the person. People who have absence seizures can have them many times in a day.
Q: I’ve heard that you should put something in a person’s mouth if they are having a seizure. Is that true?
A: No, you should never put anything in a person’s mouth if they are having a seizure. They won’t hurt their teeth or swallow their tongue during a seizure, so putting something in their mouth will only make them more uncomfortable.
Q: Can kids have epilepsy do sports and stuff like regular kids?
A: Absolutely! Kids who have epilepsy can do all the same things you can do. All kids should remember to always swim with a buddy and wear a helmet while cycling, skateboarding, roller blading, or batting in baseball. But having epilepsy shouldn’t stop kids from playing sports or doing fun things that they like doing.
Taken from: Hymander, L. Epilepsy in the Classroom: A Resource Guide for Primary Teachers.
Permission received from Judi Burrill – Epilepsy Kingston.