As you get a handle on what to expect from your child's focal onset seizures, you may start to think longer term. Can my child go on field trips? Play sports? Travel? The answer to those questions is yes, yes, and yes.
There may be some limits, but it's important for your child to do the same things as all the other kids. And that's usually possible with a little extra planning.
Create a Plan of Action
Focal onset seizures used to be called partial seizures. If your child gets them, anyone who cares for her needs to know:
- What your child's seizures look like
- What to do during one
- What's an emergency and how to handle it
- When and how to get in touch with you
That's where a plan of action comes in. It's like a checklist you and your child create with help from your doctor. Print out a bunch of copies and go over them with teachers, family members, baby sitters, friends' parents, bus drivers, coaches, and anyone else responsible for your child.
Make Your Home Safe
Think about what your child is like during a focal onset seizure and what you can do to make your house safer. You may want to:
- Add handrails to stairs.
- Have soft carpet to cushion falls.
- Remove area rugs since they might slip or cause tripping.
- Keep your home neat and uncluttered so there's less to trip over.
- Pad furniture, counters, or walls that have sharp edges.
- Put safety gates near stairs.
- Remove glass tables.
- Use guards to block hot objects like fireplaces or stoves.
It's best to have your child skip baths and go with showers instead, since a seizure that happens in water can lead to drowning.
If your child tends to fall during seizures, a shower seat and shower bars can be a big help. If your child does take a bath, someone has to be in the bathroom at all times.
As your child gets older, privacy becomes a concern. You might have to be creative on this one, like using a baby monitor or asking your kid to sing in the shower. And make sure your child knows to never lock the bathroom door. You might want to have an "In Use" sign instead.
Get a Medical Alert Bracelet
This is a simple bracelet that tells people your child gets seizures. It's something that first responders like EMTs and paramedics look out for. It's especially important as your child gets older and spends more time away from you.
Sports and hobbies are important for your child. They help avoid depression, boost self-esteem, and build friendships.
The better controlled seizures are, the more your child can do. If you're not sure an activity is safe, check with the doctor.
Many kids have few limits. From baseball and gymnastics to basketball, bowling, and horseback riding, you can encourage your child to try all kinds of things. Even contact sports, like hockey and football, are typically fair game.
Swimming is fine, but your child can't swim alone. Someone needs to be there who knows what to do in case of a seizure in the water. Wearing a life jacket, even for a strong swimmer, is a smart idea.
Your child will need to avoid things like scuba diving, skydiving, and rock climbing without a harness. In activities like those, your kid just can't afford to lose attention, even for a moment.
Field Trips, Camp, and Travel
Your child can typically do all these activities, too. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Give adults on the outing a plan of action.
- If traveling across time zones, check in with your doctor about how to adjust the schedule for your child's medicine.
- Learn about emergency services in the area you're visiting.
- Make sure your child has a medical alert bracelet.
- Pack enough medicine, including some extra, and make sure it's stored the right way.
How to Help Prevent Seizures
To lower the odds of a seizure, make sure your child:
- Avoids illicit drugs and alcohol
- Gets enough sleep
- Gets plenty of exercise
- Keeps up with doctor's visits
- Takes meds on time and as directed
Can I Leave My Child Alone?
As your child gets older and wants more privacy and independence, this is a tough question to answer. Work with your child and doctor to figure out what's safe.
If you decide that it can work, you may want to put some safeguards in place. You can make sure friends and neighbors have a copy of your key. You could use a lockbox, where you put your key in a lock on the door. Only someone with the code can get the key out.
You could also look into alarms and personal care hotlines. Some can detect falls in the house and send emergency help.
Recently, the FDA approved a watch that detects tonic-clonic seizures and sends alerts to caregivers. Keep an eye out for new technologies like this that might someday detect focal seizures as well.
When to Call 911
There are times when you need to get emergency medical help right away. Call 911 if your child:
- Has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes
- Never had a seizure before
- Doesn't come to after a seizure
- Has trouble breathing or seems to be choking
- Gets several seizures in a row and can't recover between them
- Gets hurt
- Doesn't get better from a rescue treatment (medicine used in emergencies)