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Your Child, Sports, and Epilepsy

To the parents of a child with epilepsy, the world may seem an especially dangerous place. If you have a child with epilepsy, you may secretly wish that you could surround your child with an entourage of nurses, or some protective bubble. All parents worry about horrible, what-if scenarios.

While these fears are perfectly natural, they generally aren't rooted in reality. The fact is that most kids with epilepsy do fine. In the vast majority of cases, they lead completely normal lives.

"There used to be an emphasis on what children with epilepsy can't do," says William R. Turk, MD, chief of the Neurology Division at the Nemours Children's' Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. "But nowadays, we try to stress to kids and teenagers not what they can't do, but what they can do."

And most kids with epilepsy can do just about anything.

Common Sense Limits for a Child With Epilepsy

There are a few extra precautions that parents of children with epilepsy need to take, especially around heights or water. Climbing a tree or a ladder could be dangerous if a child has a seizure while he or she is doing it, Turk says. "I generally tell kids that, if it's above their head, they shouldn't be on it."

For nervous parents, swimming or boating might seem out of the question for their children with epilepsy. But as long as the children are supervised by a parent or a lifeguard in the pool, they should be okay. On boats, children with epilepsy should wear a life jacket, just like any other child. "As long as someone's watching, the most dangerous place is not a pool or in the ocean," says Turk. "It's the bathtub, which is why people with epilepsy need to take showers, not baths."

Because the bathroom can be a dangerous place for children with epilepsy, here are some other good precautions:

  • Make sure that bathroom doors open outwards.
  • Remove locks from bathroom doors.
  • Make certain the drain in the tub isn't clogged, so it won't fill with water by accident.

Playing Sports With Epilepsy

Some children with epilepsy worry that they won't be able to play sports. A lot of parents have the mistaken impression that sports are too dangerous. But sports are an important part of any child's life, and in most cases, sports are safe for children with epilepsy. There isn't a hard and fast rule about what sports a kid with epilepsy should or shouldn't play. It ultimately comes down to common sense about your child's particular condition. Turk encourages his patients, both children and teenagers, to think practically about their abilities. He asks his patients to imagine the consequences of having a seizure during a particular activity. If the consequences are dangerous, they shouldn't do it.

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