Epilepsy in children is often difficult for parents or other adults to recognize because a child cannot always assist in diagnosis. Infants, in particular, do not have the ability to verbalize what is happening to their bodies, and even older children may not understand that what is happening to them is a problem. Parents should not assume that epilepsy will always manifest in the convulsing seizures most people imagine when thinking of the disorder. Recognizing epilepsy is largely a matter of being informed. A complete list of symptoms should be reviewed if there is any question of a child having this disorder.
The first, most obvious way to recognize epilepsy in children is to watch out for convulsions. If a child ever falls unconscious spontaneously, this may be a sign of epilepsy whether convulsions occurred. On the other hand, epilepsy in children can cause jerking movements that happen while the child is conscious. Convulsions, no matter the cause, are not a good thing and require medical attention.
Children experiencing seizures may appear to be daydreaming, but stop responding to all stimuli. When touched or spoken to, the child will show no recognition at all. After a few seconds, responsiveness resumes. This may happen several times a day. In some cases, this is combined with a change in appearance, such as becoming flush or pallid.
Sometimes, epileptic children see, hear, or smell things that are not there. A child might simply perceive something differently, such as seeing an object as being larger or smaller than it is. Children usually remember this type of seizure, but may not understand that it is something out of the ordinary and therefore may not report it.
In infants, the signs of epilepsy may not be immediately obvious. Repetitive or jerking movements of any body part may indicate a seizure. Sucking, pedaling, and making fists may all be signs of epilepsy. It is extremely difficult to recognize epilepsy in infants, so it is best to ask a pediatrician about the condition.
Generally, the best strategy for recognizing epilepsy in children is becoming familiar with their behavior. This allows an adult to figure out what is normal and what is not. Anything abnormal may be a sign of a problem such as epilepsy.
While children who experience seizures do not always have epilepsy, any activity that resembles a seizure should be investigated by a doctor. This includes the unusual disorientation, lack of response, and hallucinations listed above. Epilepsy in children is a serious but treatable disorder, and it is early detection that protects children from accidents related to epilepsy and seizures. As frightening as seizures may be, with the ability to recognize epilepsy early on, children can often deal with the disorder smoothly and without much difficulty for their entire lives.