Epilepsy: Management in School and Sports

Epilepsy can be a challenge for school-aged children, but by partnering with teachers, coaches and caregivers, successful management is entirely possible. Here are some tips to help everyone keep your child safe at school.

Does my child need a Seizure Action Plan?

If your child is at risk of having a seizure lasting longer than five minutes, or more than three seizures in an hour, they should have a rescue medication at school. Your neurologist can create a personalized Seizure Action Plan for your child. Seizure Action Plans are not just for school and daycare. You can share your child’s seizure action plan with other adults, like coaches, troop leaders, or the parents in your carpool.

Additionally, a medication called midazolam with a cap that turns it into a nasal spray, can safely stop prolonged and frequent seizures. There are teaching sheets available to help a school nurse or other adult give the medication safely.

My child has epilepsy. Can they play sports? 

Absolutely! People with epilepsy get the same benefits from athletics as other people: improved health and fitness, stress reduction and the experience of being on a team. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Exercise induced seizures are very rare.
  • Getting tackled in football, hit in hockey, or heading a soccer ball does not increase the risk of seizure.
  • Research shows that people with epilepsy who play sports have fewer seizures.

Remember, certain medications may make bones weaker or make it harder for athletes with epilepsy to sweat and cool off. Starting a new medication or increasing doses may make your child feel tired or uncoordinated until their body adjusts. Talk with your neurologist if these are concerns for your athlete.

Are there any sports my athlete with epilepsy should not play? 

Sports injuries happen at the same rate in athletes with and without epilepsy. Here are extra safety considerations for athletes with epilepsy:

  • Frequent absence seizures should be controlled before playing sports.
  • Cross country runners and weight lifters should train with a partner.
  • People with epilepsy are 4 times more likely to drown. It is important that your family, your athlete and the coach are aware of the risk if an athlete with epilepsy is on swim team.
  • Always wear helmets when participating in sports with wheels.

Athletes with epilepsy have the same risk of concussion as other athletes but may take longer to recover. Talk to your neurologist and your pediatrician if you have questions about concussion and your athlete.

What about other school activities? 

  • Kids with epilepsy can play actively with their peers at school, but on the playground and in gym class, limit climbing to under 10 feet.
  • If seizures are frequent, postpone cooking classes to decrease the risk of cuts or burns.
  • Shop class and use of power tools is not recommended for people with epilepsy.
  • Driver’s Education class can be taken at any time, but logging driving hours and getting a permit must wait until your teen has been seizure free for an appropriate amount of time.

Kids with epilepsy can and should participate in activities with their peers and friends. With these tips, you can help your child take part safely, and have a great year.

For more information about epilepsy treatment, click here or listen to our PediaCast. Also, be on the lookout for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Epilepsy App in early 2017. You can use the app to create a digital copy of your Seizure Action Plan that is easy to share.

Jaime-Dawn Twanow, MD
Jaime Twanow, MD, is an attending pediatric neurologist at Nationwide Children’s and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Neurology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She completed a pediatric residency, a child neurology residency and a clinical neurophysiology fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She is board certified in pediatrics, neurology with special qualifications in child neurology, and epilepsy. Her clinical interests include complex epilepsy care and critical care neurology.

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