Epilepsy and Teens
Driving When a Teen Has Epilepsy
Getting a driver's license is a monumental event in most teenagers' lives. It's a rite of passage that many teens with epilepsy worry that they'll miss. However, in most cases, teens with controlled seizures can get a license like anyone else.
The laws vary from state to state, but generally, if a person with epilepsy is on medication and hasn't had a seizure recently, he or she can get a license. Just how long the person must be seizure-free depends on where you live. Also, some states may allow you to get a license if you're having seizures only at a specific time of day when you wouldn't be driving (such as right before bed).
Some parents worry that their teens might not tell them about a seizure for fear they would lose their license. It's important to talk to your teenager about the significance of this information. Having a seizure while driving endangers your teen, his passengers, and other drivers.
"I tell my patients that if they have a seizure, they have to stop driving," Turk says. "It's the law and it's to protect them and their parents and anyone else on the road."
Teens, Dating, and Epilepsy
Obviously, teenagers with epilepsy date just like anyone else. But often they worry about telling dates that they have epilepsy. Your daughter may not want to tell her boyfriend. Your son may not want girls to know. In the end, the decision is up to each teen, but you should encourage your child to be honest and open. When your child enters a serious relationship, it's important for the other person to know about epilepsy. Otherwise your child's boyfriend or girlfriend could be upset and frightened during a seizure.
One potentially awkward issue that you may want to bring up with your daughter is pregnancy. You may think it's too early to have this talk, but it's probably not. Teenagers with epilepsy may begin to wonder whether they'll be able to have a normal family, and whether their condition may cause problems with pregnancy.
The facts are reassuring: Most women with epilepsy have healthy children. However, epilepsy does increase some of the risks. Also, some epilepsy drugs may cause birth defects and others decrease the effectiveness of birth control. So, it's particularly important that women with epilepsy plan for pregnancy.
Teens, Epilepsy, Alcohol, and Drugs
Alcohol and a number of drugs, legal and illegal, can increase the risk of seizures. Although a lot of parents would rather avoid the topic, it's important to talk about these issues, especially if your child has epilepsy.
It's true that peer pressure can overwhelm any teenager's good sense, but your child may have more restraint than you expect. If he understands that drinking and doing drugs raise his risk of seizures, he really may avoid those substances. Remember, he really doesn't want to have seizures, either.