Epilepsy action plan a boon to carers

SINGAPORE - A new guide for parents of children with epilepsy has helped them to deal with the seizures at home, rather than seek help from a hospital.

In a test, KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) gave the Epilepsy Action Plan to 35 carers of epileptic kids in November last year.

Over the next five months, not one made a call to ask about first aid for seizures and instead consulted the guide's drawings and instructions on what to do.

Meanwhile, first-aid queries constituted 14 per cent of the calls made by 52 carers who were not given the plan.

Calling the hospital during a seizure is "less than ideal", said Dr Derrick Chan, who heads KKH's neurology service. "It is time-consuming for the caregiver and delays the provision of first aid."

The guide outlines first-aid measures and advises carers on when a child should go to a hospital. It is now available for all KKH epilepsy patients and the hospital is looking at introducing it nationwide.

Every year, about 150 children here are diagnosed with epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes repeated seizures or fits.

Although parents are counselled verbally by medical staff on how to cope with these, they may not remember everything.

Dr Chan said mistakes in delivering first aid are common. "Caregivers tend to forget part of the instructions, while traditional beliefs may be hard to shake off," he said.

One erroneous belief is that you should put something in a child's mouth for him or her to bite on during a seizure. But inserting objects such as a spoon can hurt the child's mouth or teeth.

He also noted: "The stress of watching their child have a seizure affects a parent's ability to perform first aid."

The action plan helped the group of 35 carers score 12 per cent better on a questionnaire about epileptic seizures, compared with their results for the same questions before using the plan.

Those in the test group with the plan included Madam Tan, who declined to give her full name. Her four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy last year.

The 35-year-old said that if they had not received the guide, she and her husband might have had a different understanding of the clinic's instructions. She said it has been a "big help" and they can now handle seizures calmly.

It is a far cry from June last year when her daughter had her first seizure, which lasted more than 10 minutes. "It was so frightening," recalled the marketing consultant."We went straight into panic mode."

The plan's "traffic light" colour codes help parents quickly pinpoint the type of seizure: red for severe and green for minor.

Instructions under each colour code tell parents what to do. For instance, if the child has three or more seizures within an hour, medication called rectal diazepam could be given.

If a seizure does not stop after five minutes, the child may need to be taken to a hospital for emergency treatment.

Madam Tan added: "Seizures are still scary, but with the plan, at least we are prepared."

chpoon@sph.com.sg


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