Anti-Seizure Medicines

Anti-Seizure Medicines

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

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Key points to remember about anti-seizure medicines

  • the aim of anti-seizure medicines is to prevent epileptic seizures
  • anti-seizure 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-seizure medicines?

Sometimes people call anti-seizure medicines 'anti-epileptic drugs' or 'AEDs'. Anti-seizure medicines (ASMs) is the more recent name for these medicines.

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

There are many different kinds of anti-seizure 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-seizure medicines' for information about each medicine.

Specific anti-seizure medicines

How should my child take their anti-seizure medicines?

Make sure your child takes the right amount every day.

Anti-seizure 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 about anti-seizure medicines 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-seizure medicines?

When your child first starts taking anti-seizure 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-seizure medicines. Your doctor will think about many things when choosing which anti-seizure 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-seizure medicines.

Do anti-seizure medicines have side effects?

Anti-seizure medicines, like most other medicines, can have side effects. Most children taking anti-seizure medicines have no side effects. The different kinds of anti-seizure medicines can each have their own side effects. Some side effects are more common than others. Remember, your doctor will recommend anti-seizure 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.

Is it OK for my child to take other medicines and therapies when they're taking anti-seizure medicine?

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-seizure 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-seizure medicine that your child is taking. This helps them when they are prescribing other medicines, such as antibiotics, for your child.

What about my child's prescription for their anti-seizure medicine?

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.

What about safety and anti-seizure medicines?

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

Medicine safety - tips for parents

How long will my child need to take anti-seizure 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 anti-seizure 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.

Acknowledgements

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

This page last reviewed 07 April 2021.

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