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Drugs for Children With Epilepsy

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Types of Epilepsy Drugs continued...

How much of a drug should your child take? There isn't a strict rule about this, and it varies with each child. Usually, doctors will try different epilepsy drugs at different doses to determine the best one for your child. Your child should take just enough medicine to prevent seizures without causing side effects. You and your child's doctor may need to tinker with the prescription over a few months to find the right dose. It's worth the effort. Too much medication increases the side effects, while too little leaves your child vulnerable to seizures.

Also, as your child grows, the doctor may adjust the dose of medication (blood levels sometimes help with this decision).

The Value of Epilepsy Drugs

You may be nervous about giving powerful epilepsy drugs, with all their possible side effects, to a small child. But drug treatments usually work, and stopping the seizures is crucial.

Still, you do need to take precautions to use these drugs safely. For instance, you have to be careful that the epilepsy medicine does not interact with another drug, supplement or herb your child may take. Make sure to tell your doctor about all medications and supplements your child is using before you begin an anti-seizure medicine. It is also important to tell your doctor about any new drugs that are started after your child is on anti-seizure medicine.

Some parents worry that their children may later abuse drugs after taking epilepsy medicines during childhood. Rest assured, there is no evidence that children treated with epilepsy drugs are at higher risk for drug abuse.

Tips for Taking Epilepsy Drugs

For a child with epilepsy, sticking to a medication schedule can be tough. It can be hard for a child to remember to take medicine twice or even three times a day.

Here are some practical steps you can take to make it easier on your child:

  • First, keep all medicines, especially seizure medicines, away from young children. An overdose of these medicines can be especially dangerous.
  • Buy a pill box for your child with spaces for each dose. You might also want to use alarms -- maybe on a wrist watch, cell phones, or computer -- to remind your child to take his or her medication.
  • Talk to your child's teacher or the school nurse about how epilepsy drugs should be given at school. However, if possible, try to avoid giving medications at school.
  • Talk to your doctor about simplifying the medication schedule as much as possible. If your child is supposed to take medicine more than once a day, or take multiple medicines, ask if there's any way to combine doses or switch to one drug.
  • Set a sensible schedule. Sometimes parents continue the medication schedule that their child had in the hospital. This could involve waking up your child in the night to give medicine. Nighttime medicine may not be necessary. Talk to your doctor about how to set the simplest and most sensible schedule.
  • Don't run low on your medicine. Get in the habit of requesting drug refills several days before you'll run out of epilepsy medicine.
  • Know what to do when your child misses a dose. Children inevitably miss a dose once in a while. Make sure you know what to do when it happens. Remember, never double up a dose unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Involve your child in the process. As the parent, you must make sure your child takes the epilepsy medicine. But it's a good idea to encourage your child to take some responsibility, too. Children with epilepsy will need to know how to follow their medication schedule on their own as they grow older.
  • Be honest with the doctor. You may feel embarrassed to admit to your child's doctor that you've missed some doses. But even the most organized people forget sometimes. It's crucial that you honestly tell your child's doctor how often your child has really taken the epilepsy medicine. If your child takes medicine only half the scheduled times, the doctor may think the drug isn't working and raise the dosage. That can lead to side effects.

Remember, a person with epilepsy should never stop taking medicine without a doctor's consent. Stopping medication may lead to more, even stronger seizures.

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