Epilepsy: You’re entitled to a second opinion

By admin
25 June 2014

The only thing more frightening than rushing to hospital with a sick child is going home without having received answers to your questions about your child’s condition. What do you do if you have more questions than answers?

This is the situation a SuperMom in our Facebook community found herself in recently after her three-year-old daughter suffered a suspected epileptic fit. The little girl was rushed to hospital, where a series of tests was done – but the only answer her mom received was that they should wait until it happens again before the doctor can consider prescribing medication.

If one doctor can’t help you it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a second doctor’s opinion, says Dr Hester van der Walt, a paediatrician of Vredenburg. “Parents should ask questions until they’re satisfied with the answer they’re given,” she says.

“If you don’t get it from the first doctor you can ask a second doctor for their opinion.” She explains the fault usually doesn’t lie with the doctor or the parents, because both have the child’s interests at heart, but rather with insufficient communication.

If your child is sick or in hospital you can:

  • Ask your doctor to explain the child’s condition in simple language.
  • Ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist with more knowledge of the illness.
  • Read up on the condition and approach your paediatrician with questions so you’ll understand more about it.
  • Describe your child’s symptoms to the doctor. Even if they can’t make a diagnosis they may be able to treat the symptoms.

Advice for epileptic fits

An epileptic fit can be a frightening situation. Follow this advice if your child has one:

  • Move loose items out of the way so your child doesn’t hurt themselves.
  • Loosen tight clothing, especially if it’s around the neck.
  • Place a cushion or something soft under the child’s neck.
  • Turn the child on their side.
  • Note how long the fit lasts so you can give the information to the doctor later.

Call an ambulance if:

  • The child is injured during the fit.
  • The child swallows water.
  • The fit lasts longer than five minutes.
  • There’s no history of epilepsy.


  • Put anything in the child’s mouth thinking it will prevent them from swallowing their tongues or choking. It’s a myth that someone suffering a fit can swallow their tongue.
  • Try to hold the child down.
  • Apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the fit is over. Apply mouth-to-mouth only if the child isn’t breathing after the fit.

-Mieke Vlok

Extra sources: kidshealth.ca, epilepsy.org.za, webmd.com

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