Anti-epileptic medicines

Anti-epileptic medicines

The aim of anti-epileptic medicines is to prevent epileptic seizures. They are very effective in controlling seizures as long as your child takes them correctly.

Key points to remember

  • the aim of anti-epileptic medicines is to prevent epileptic seizures
  • anti-epileptic medicines are very effective in controlling seizures as long as your child takes them correctly
  • make sure your child receives the right amount every day
  • don't change the amount unless your doctor tells you to

What are anti-epileptic medicines?

Check Specific anti-epileptic medicines for information about each medicine.

Sometimes people call anti-epileptic medicines anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs.

The aim of anti-epileptic medicines is to prevent epileptic seizures.

There are many different kinds of anti-epileptic medicines for children with seizures. Each one works differently to prevent seizures. Children take the medicine by mouth. They absorb the medicine through their tummy into the bloodstream. From there, the medicine circulates to the brain where it begins to take effect.

Check Specific anti-epileptic medicines for information about each medicine.

How should my child take their anti-epileptic medicines?

Make sure your child takes the right amount every day.

Anti-epileptic medicines are very effective in controlling seizures if your child takes them correctly.

  • make sure your child takes the right amount every day
  • don't change the amount unless your doctor tells you to

It can be difficult to remember to take the medicine every day. You can ask your pharmacist to put your child's medicines in blister packs or in pill rolls. This makes it much easier to know when you have forgotten. Or, you can buy a pill box from a pharmacy and put a week's worth of medicines in it at the beginning of the week. Putting an alarm on your smartphone can also be really helpful.

Don't change the amount unless your doctor tells you to.

Pill roll, medicine blister pack and pill box.

What should I do if my child becomes unwell?

When your child is unwell it is important they still take their medicine.

  • if your child vomits within 1 hour of taking a dose of their medicine, give 1 replacement dose
  • if your child vomits within 1 hour of taking the replacement dose, contact your family doctor for advice
  • if your child vomits after 1 hour of taking that dose, do not give it again

Do not stop your child's medicine suddenly - this could bring on severe seizures.

What happens when my child first starts taking anti-epileptic medicines?

When your child first starts taking anti-epileptic medicines, the first dose will be small. Your doctor will tell you how to increase it over time until your child is taking enough to prevent seizures. Increasing the dose slowly helps to decrease the chance your child will develop any side effects when they start anti-epileptic medicines. Your doctor will think about many things when choosing which anti-epileptic medicine your child needs. These things include:

  • age
  • weight
  • medical history
  • frequency, severity and type of seizure
  • likelihood of pregnancy in young people

As your child grows, they may need a higher dose of their anti-epileptic medicines.

Do anti-epileptic medicines have side effects?

Anti-epileptic medicines, like most other medicines, can have side effects. Most children taking anti-epileptic medicines have no side effects. The different kinds of anti-epileptic medicines can each have their own side effects. Some side effects are more common than others. Remember, your doctor will recommend anti-epileptic medicines when the benefit of using them to control your child's seizures is greater than the risk of side effects. Ask your doctor for information about side effects.

If your child has recently started a new medicine and has developed symptoms, please take them to see your family doctor. Your doctor can help decide whether the symptoms are due to the medicine or something else such as a childhood illness.  

Your child does not need regular blood tests to monitor the medicine unless your child has specific problems. Your doctor will talk with you about whether your child needs blood tests.

Other medicines and therapies

When buying any other medicines or therapies (over the counter medicines), please check with your pharmacist or health professional that it is OK to use them with your child's current anti-epileptic medicine. Your child can take most over the counter medicines.

It is a good idea to always tell any doctor the name of the anti-epileptic medicine that your child is taking. This helps them when they are prescribing other medicines, such as antibiotics, for your child.

Your child's prescription

You can take your prescription to any pharmacy. Although your child's paediatrician or paediatric neurologist prescribes your child's first prescription, you can get repeat prescriptions from your family doctor.

It is important to make sure you do not run out of medicine for your child. Stopping the medicine suddenly can cause severe seizures.

Safety

Remember to keep all medicines in a locked cupboard out of reach of children.

How long will my child need to take anti-epileptic medicine?

Many children with childhood epilepsy will outgrow their seizures. Some types of childhood epilepsy will continue throughout life. If your child has no seizures for 2 years, they may be able to stop their medicine. It's important that you make the decision about when to reduce and stop your child's medicines with your doctors. Never stop your child's medicine suddenly. This can result in severe seizures and status epilepticus which can be hard to stop. 

Can I stop my child's medicine?

If you do not want your child to continue the medicine, talk to your doctor first. It is important to slowly decrease the dose according to your doctor's instructions. Do not stop your child's medicine suddenly - this could bring on severe seizures.

The content on this page has been developed and approved by the Paediatric Neurology Clinical Network, Paediatric Society New Zealand.

This page last reviewed 11 June 2018.
Email us your feedback


On this page