Much about epilepsy is a mystery. A seizure disorder, doctors don’t always understand why children develop it, or how it will affect them.
“There are multiple types of seizures. Many people have heard of what are described as generalized tonic seizures where there’s shaking and stiffness of the whole body, but seizures can be as simple as staring spells,” says Dr. Guillermo Philipps, pediatric neurologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
While medications are often used to limit seizure activity- families may rely on other tools to warn and protect their child from harm. Susan Noble works closely with Golisano Children’s Hospital, helping families get tools and services.
“Children that tend to have a lot of seizures tend to fall down very easily and it can do brain damage. The doctor will recommend if they need a helmet, they also can recommend should they need a service dog,” says Susan Noble, founder of the Epilepsy Warriors foundation.
Service dogs sense when a child is having or about to have a seizure.
“They will alert a family when the child is having a seizure but there are service response dogs that can respond after the seizure,” says Noble.
Another tool used to reduce seizure impact is diet- a specialized one used in cases where medication isn’t working. Called the ketogenic diet, it may be hard for some to swallow.
“The ketogenic diet has been around for decades. It is a special diet where there’s a high fat, protein - low carbohydrate ratio that produces what’s called ketosis. Instead of circulating glucose through the blood, you circulate ketone bodies and these are anti-epileptic. This diet has been very effective it can reduce seizures greatly, but it can be very difficult to maintain,” says Dr. Philipps.
Treating pediatric epilepsy is a family affair- working towards the goal of seizure control.