Each day in Canada, about 42 people learn they have epilepsy and an average of 15 500 people are diagnosed each year. Of those people, 44 per cent are diagnosed before the age of five and 55 per cent before the age of ten, according to Epilepsy Canada.

In almost half of childhood epilepsy cases, children outgrow their epilepsy by their mid to late teens. Epilepsy Canada also estimates that the prevalence of epilepsy is actually much higher than is known, due to the stigma surrounding the condition.

This stigma can also be much more offsetting to children, and the symptoms much scarier. Epilepsy is defined as a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works. The condition is a symptom of a neurological disorder that affects the brain and manifests itself in the form of seizures.

There are two main types of seizures in children, depending on which area of the brain is affected. Focal seizures affect only one side of the brain, while generalized seizures will affect both sides. These seizures can show themselves by jerking of the body, repetitive movements and/or unusual sensations, such as a strange taste in the mouth, a strange smell or a rising feeling in the stomach. Some seizures in children, known as absence seizures, can be so brief and mild they can be mistaken for daydreaming or a lack of paying attention. Children may also experience nocturnal seizures – seizures while they are asleep, which may leave them feeling more tired or confused the following day.

Whereas some children may develop epilepsy as a result of a severe head injury, most researchers believe that the chance of developing epilepsy is almost always genetic to some extent. According to Epilepsy Society, researchers justify this by considering many children with similar brain injuries, but only some developing epilepsy afterwards.

Most children with epilepsy take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) to treat their condition and most will stop having seizures once they are on an AED that suits them best. In more severe cases, some children may also be encouraged to start a ketogenic diet – a low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet – alongside the AEDs.

Many children are also more prone to experiencing seizures in certain trigger situations, such as times of high stress, excitement, boredom or lack of sleep. Keeping track of these triggers and being aware of them can help reduce the number of seizures a child has.

In terms of the everyday life of a child with epilepsy, it should not be much different from any other child their age. Breaking down the stigma, encouraging a child to be open about their feelings and helping them fully understand their condition can go a long way in ensuring they lead the most normal, balanced lifestyle possible.

Although epilepsy and anti-epileptic medication do not affect a child’s behaviour, it can be normal to sense a child growing more irritable or withdrawn – this may be a result of their feelings towards their condition. It is therefore important to treat them as any other child their age, by allowing them to participate in the same leisure activities and sports as their friends and their peers. Having someone alongside the child, who knows how to help should a seizure occur, is the safest bet in allowing them to live a full, balanced life.