Epilepsy Awareness Month
COVID-19 and Epilepsy
I want to begin by discussing some important questions and answers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and Epilepsy.
Q. Are people with epilepsy at higher risk of developing COVID-19?
No. Those who have epilepsy alone do not have a higher risk of getting COVID-19, nor does it increase the severity of the virus if an epileptic contacts it.
Q: What factors may increase the risk of serious problems from COVID-19 for someone with epilepsy?
Some people with epilepsy have other Heath conditions and treatments which may put them at higher risk from COVID-19. These include:
- Some medications to control seizures also affect the immune system. However, most do not. Check with your doctor.
- Some people with epilepsy have other conditions that affect their immunity. These individuals may be at greater risk of developing more severe symptoms with viral illnesses. Check with your doctor.
- People with epilepsy who have problems with swallowing or inhaling food or liquids into their lungs are at higher risk for pneumonia. Also, if an epileptic has diabetes, heart, or lung problems, he or she is at risk for severe COVID-19.
Q. Can seizures increase if a person contacts COVID-19?
Maybe. When someone with epilepsy contacts COVID-19, he or she may see a change or increase in seizures. The virus is a physical and emotional source of stress to the body that could make seizures more likely.
Q. What are some sources for help?
- The Epilepsy Foundation: 1-800-332-1000
- U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
- American Epilepsy Society: 1-312-883-3800
Your Child and Epilepsy in School
Most students with epilepsy can participate in all school activities. Some may require additional services, accommodations, or specialized instruction. They may need to take medication at school; require help with certain subjects; or be given extra time to take tests and quizzes. Federal law grants children with epilepsy the right to receive those supplementary services, and if necessary, special education.
Frequently, schools may fail to provide such children adequate special education services or accommodations to address the learning or cognitive impairments caused by their seizures or the side effects of antiepileptic medication. It is important that parents communicate with the teachers and administration to ensure the school is aware of the possible outcomes of this refusal of services. To this end, a seizure action plan should be developed. This plan contains the essential information the school staff may need to help your child who has seizures. It includes information on first aid, parent and health care provider contact information, and medications specifically for your son or daughter. At the beginning of each school year, as a parent you should:
- Discuss your child’s condition and any learning issue with your child’s teacher.
- Review your child’s seizure action plan so the teacher knows what to do if your child has a seizure.
- Make sure all adults who supervise your child during the school day know what to do if your child has a seizure including: school nurses, librarians, gym teacher, bus drivers, lunchroom supervisors, student teachers, and the school administration.
- Maintain communication throughout the school year about your child’s progress, changes in medication, and any related issues.
Especially at the elementary school level, ask you child’s teacher to discuss epilepsy with the class in a manner that would be comfortable for your child. Besides the learning benefits, this also helps in the following ways:
Having a seizure at school can be embarrassing for your child and frightening to others. It is better if the teacher discusses it in the event it should occur.
Discussing it can help to prevent teasing and correct some of the inaccuracies children may have heard.
Epilepsy Questions and Answers
Q: Does epilepsy qualify as a disability under the Individuals with Educational Disabilities Act (IDEA)?
Yes. To qualify under IDEA, a child must have a disability that adversely affects his or her ability to learn. Epilepsy is such a disability. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder.
Q: What is epilepsy?
Answer: Epilepsy is a “seizure disorder” which is characterized by unpredictable actions and can cause other health problems. It is a spectrum condition with a wide range of seizure types. Controlling them varies from person-to-person.
Q: Will epilepsy present a problem for my child in school?
Answer: Probably. Because epilepsy is a spectrum condition, different children will have very different experiences of how it affects them, and the impact it has on their school learning experiences. The following could possibly be problem area:
- More than half of the children found it more difficult to learn than their peers who did not have epilepsy.
- More than half of the children had memory problems.
- Just under half of the children had problems with the speed with which they processed information.
- Just under half of the children were underachieving at school, especially in mathematics.
- Over half of the parents said that their child had difficulties with attention and concentration.
Q: What happens if epilepsy is left untreated?
Someone with epilepsy will have repeated seizures. There is often no warning or clear reason why the seizures occur. If epilepsy is left untreated, the seizures may occur throughout a person’s life. They can become more severe and happen more often over time.
Q: Does epilepsy worsen with age?
Answer: Maybe. Adults past age 60 may experience an increased risk for epileptic seizures as well as related conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, 80% of the people with epilepsy require ongoing treatment to prevent seizures from disrupting their daily activities. The factors that determine epilepsy prognosis include:
- Health and family history
- Severity or pattern of seizures
- Current treatment plan.
- There are about 3.4 million people in the United States with epilepsy (65 million worldwide).
- There are about 470,000 children in the United States with epilepsy.
- Almost four present of the people in the United States will develop epilepsy during their lifetime (150,000 new cases per year).
- One-third of the people with epilepsy live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them.
- Julius Caesar and Vincent Van Gogh both had epilepsy, the former having suffered a seizure while speaking to the Roman Senate.