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Epileptic children can lead a normal life, experts say

Support groups give parents a sense of empowerment and control

Gulf News

Al Ain: Doctors at a leading hospital of the country have yesterday (Monday) said most epileptic children can live a normal life with only moderate medication.

Most of these children can also expect the seizures to diminish or disappear altogether as they get older, said Dr Mohammad Al Hadi Al Malek, a consultant child neurologist at Tawam Hospital, at a symposium held here recently to discuss different therapies for the disorder.

The discussion also included non-pharmacological epilepsy treatment offered at the hospital such as ketogenic diet, vagus nerve simulation (VNS), and surgery. It was the fourth meeting of the Children Epilepsy Support Group, organised by Tawam’s Paediatric Neurology Division.

Dr Al Malek said the children who somehow continue to have the syndrome and those with an underlying neurologic cause for their epilepsy, can still have an improved quality of life when the epilepsy is controlled by medication and other measures.

For such children, he said, the important message is that the seizures can be controlled successfully. In these cases, he said: “Parents’ reassurance and education are important, particularly in administering first aid before bringing the child to the hospital.”

When a seizure occurs, said Dr Al Malek, the first step parents need to take is to remain calm and remove any sharp objects surrounding the patient. They should place a soft object under the victim’s head while loosening clothes in the neck area to help the person breathe more easily.

The patient should also be turned to his or her side to keep the air passage clear and he or she should be kept in this position until the seizure is over. When the patient returns to consciousness, reassure and calm him, but if convulsing continues, the patient must be taken to the emergency department of the nearest hospital.

“Most types of seizures only last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Certain prescription drugs can be administered at home to help abort the seizure. Then the child needs to be taken to the nearest hospital,” he added.

He said the Tawam support groups had become increasingly popular with more parents attending each year. “Support groups are a great way for parents to get together and share personal experiences and offer moral support to each other,” he said.

These groups, said Dr Al Malek, give parents a sense of empowerment and control as well as useful information to help them overcome any issue without isolation and judgement. They also make them aware of the different treatment options and diagnostic tools available at Tawam Hospital, including the VNS device implantation and ketogenic diet therapies.