A seizure is a scary event for adult or child. When it is your own child, seconds can seem like hours.
By definition, a seizure is sudden, temporary changes in movement, sensation or behavior related to abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. But it can look like a lot of different things. It can manifest as rhythmic flexing and extending of the arms and legs, a loss of muscle tone or weakness, or can consist of a staring spell for a few seconds.
The most important question for parents to ask themselves when concerned about possible seizure activity in their child is, “Was my child responsive during the episode?” In a typical seizure, the child is not responsive to their parent talking to them, saying their name, or to a touch. A parent cannot stop a child’s seizure.
The most common type of seizure in children is associated with fever, called febrile seizures. The seizure occurs as the temperature starts to rise in a child. Febrile seizures occur in 5 percent of preschool children. Generally, the seizure is secondary to the fever and is not caused by the illness.
Dr. Elizabeth Walenz
Most often, a febrile seizure is an isolated event. Children who are younger than a year old when they have their first simple febrile seizure convulsion have about a 50 percent chance of having another. If the child is older than a year, their chances of having a second are about 30 percent.
What should you do if your child has a seizure?
Safety first. Make sure your child is in a safe environment. Lay your child on the floor and on their side. Place something soft under their head. Do not try to open your child’s mouth or place anything in their mouth during the seizure.
Above all, try to remain calm. Keep an eye on the clock. If the seizure lasts longer than two to three minutes or if it is very severe, where your child turns blue in the face, call 911 and have an emergency squad come to help. If your child is having repeat seizure activity, they should be evaluated in the emergency room.
If the seizure ends on its own, watch your child for a few minutes. After a seizure, it’s not uncommon for the child to be sleepy or want to take a nap. Call your pediatrician to discuss a course of action and an evaluation.
What’s my next course of action?
If your child has a febrile seizure, your pediatrician will often try to determine the source of the fever. If it’s from viral infection, they will just treat the symptoms, but if the fever stems from a bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics.
In the case of repeat seizure activity on several different occasions, seizures not related to fevers, or partial seizures where there may only be one arm jerking instead of the entire body, your pediatrician may order several studies. They may want to get some images of your child’s brain, perhaps in the form of a cat (CT) scan or MRI. They may also order an EEG to further look at the electrical activity of the brain to determine if there is an underlying cause of the seizure such as epilepsy. If a child is having repeat seizure activity, a pediatric neurologist may be involved in your child’s care as well.
If your child has a seizure, the best thing you can do for your child is to remain calm. Staying calm and remembering what you should do to keep your child safe will help your doctor get a quicker diagnosis and keep your child on the path to good health.