Merck Manual

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Using Drugs to Treat Seizures in Children

Using Drugs to Treat Seizures in Children

When their child has had a seizure, parents are often concerned that the child may need to take a drug to control seizures (an antiseizure drug). Parents are concerned about side effects, and they know that getting children to take a drug on a regular basis is difficult. Learning more about antiseizure drugs can help parents better participate in decisions about treatment of their child.


  • Most children who have had only one seizure do not need to take antiseizure drugs.

  • Doctors can choose from more than 20 antiseizure drugs in their search for one that is appropriate for a particular child.

  • Antiseizure drugs stop or control the seizures in 80% of children.

  • Many children need to take only one antiseizure drug.

  • Most children can eventually stop taking antiseizure drugs.


  • Most antiseizure drugs have side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, unsteadiness, drowsiness, double vision, or rash.

  • Some antiseizure drugs may affect attention span, memory, and school performance while children are taking the drug.

  • Children who take certain antiseizure drugs must have regular blood tests to determine whether the dose is correct or to check for side effects (such as chemical imbalances in the blood).

  • Some newer antiseizure drugs have not been tested in young children (although these drugs often are used in young children and results of that experience are published).

In weighing concerns, parents should remember that preventing further seizures is important because poorly controlled seizures can lead to slowing of mental processing (cognitive delays), emotional and behavioral problems, and poor quality of life. Also, preventing seizures prevents the injuries and accidents that may occur because of a seizure.

To be sure drugs are taken on a regular schedule, parents can do the following:

  • Use a pill box (which contains compartments for each day of the week, for different times of each day, or both).

  • Refill prescriptions before they run out.

  • Encourage the child to take responsibility for taking the drug, but continue to oversee the process until the child is reliable.

  • Discuss in advance with the doctor what to do if the child misses a dose.