If your child has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy and experiences seizures, you are probably looking for ways to create a safe home environment. Keeping your child safe is of the utmost importance. You can achieve this by removing unnecessary clutter, installing carpeting, and adding foam to the sharp edges of furniture.
However, there will be times when your child has to leave the relatively safe environment of your home, and a seizure helmet can provide them with an extra layer of protection.
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Approximately three million adults and 470,000 children¹ in the United States live with active epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Active epilepsy means an individual has or is being treated for ongoing seizures.
Seizures occur when there is a burst of uncontrolled, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The location of the seizure in the brain (or where it originates) determines what effect it will have on you.
In some cases, seizures may cause uncontrolled movements, sudden collapse, or a loss of consciousness. In such cases, there is the potential that you will sustain serious injuries to the head or face.
Research² indicates that the first year after the onset of seizures, at any age, is a particularly high-risk period for injuries. Children and adolescents with epilepsy risk head injury more than their siblings without epilepsy.
There haven’t been any long-term studies on whether or not wearing head protection prevents seizure-related head trauma.
One study, which followed a group of young people with epilepsy for a year, found that scalp and facial bruises — the most common seizure-related injury — occurred at a similar rate whether or not a helmet was worn at the time of the seizure.
However, seizure helmets can be specifically adapted to prevent maxillofacial injuries. These helmets often include visors, making children and adolescents more reluctant to wear them.
It’s important to note, however, that a lack of studies regarding the benefits of wearing a seizure helmet doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t provide some measure of protection. Given the strong possibility that they do, after all, helmets provide some degree of head protection in various sports, it seems safer to err on the side of caution.
While helmets designed for some sports may work well for seizures, others won’t. For example, bicycle helmets are designed to crush impact and be discarded after an accident. This would not work well for someone who experiences frequent seizures.
Hockey helmets provide good all-around protection and can fit a variety of age groups. But few children will be comfortable wearing a hockey helmet all day, every day.
Medical helmets, which are designed to be worn throughout the day, are lightweight, durable, and comfortable. They can be custom-made to fit anyone, including infants, and are sometimes even designed to look like a regular beanie or hat to reduce the anxiety and fear of the stigmatization that your child or adolescent might feel at the prospect of having to constantly wear a helmet.
Medical helmets are worn not only by people with epilepsy but also by people with other neurological conditions, such as autism, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease.
There are several questions that you should consider before choosing a seizure helmet for your child:
Does your child experience seizures daily or infrequently?
Are seizures preceded by an aura or other warning symptoms?
Does your child generally fall forwards or backward during a seizure? If your child falls forwards, face protection is needed. If your child falls backward, the back of the head needs protection.
Does the helmet you are considering have an adjustable chin strap?
Is your child unlikely to wear the helmet if it is uncomfortable or unsightly?
Is the helmet lightweight and durable?
Can the helmet be easily washed and dried?
If you decide to use a sports helmet as a seizure helmet, you should be able to find one at a sporting goods store. If you are looking for a medical helmet, you can find these through medical supply companies. Speak to your doctor or the rehabilitation department at your hospital for information on local companies that specialize in suitable helmets.
Regarding epilepsy and the potential for head injuries, seizure helmets are generally considered a sensible precautionary measure. When choosing a helmet, it is a good idea to consider the nature and frequency of your child’s seizures and whether or not your child will be comfortable wearing the suggested helmet.
Epilepsy fast facts | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention