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Cataplexy chart

What is cataplexy?

Cataplexy is a symptom of Narcolepsy Type 1. It is the sudden and brief loss of muscle tone as a response to emotion (commonly laughter). This might cause the person to feel weak or to collapse completely.

This means children will learn to avoid any situation where they may laugh or get excited. This causes social impairment and they may be interpreted as behaving in a withdrawn or anti-social way.

Cataplexy can range from partial to full cataplexy, and everyone experiences it differently. Examples of it include slurred speech and weakness of the face, limbs and torso, resulting in slumping to the ground or being unable to move or talk.

Cataplexy also can include head bobbing while sitting, arms unable to work, mouth dropping, slurring words, chocking, protruding tongue and many other slight differences.

Cataplexy can affect the eyelids, face, jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and knees.

What to do when cataplexy happens?

Be aware that cataplexy means that they are awake and fully conscious and may be able to hear. They will have a mild sense of weakness in a few muscles and will be unable to respond. Please help them by making sure the area is safe, and help them stay calm until this passes and their muscle strength has come back.

Please download our cataplexy chart to keep a log of your child’s symptoms.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SLP40

Resource Type: Article

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