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Seizures

By George Wolcott, M.D.

Child hugging parent

Seizures are caused by abnormal brain functions leading to muscle spasms or loss of consciousness and are more common in children than adults. If seizures become recurrent, your child may have Epilepsy – a neurological disorder causing an individual to be more prone to seizures. There are over 30 different types of seizures and Boys Town Pediatrics is here to help you differentiate between common types.

Absence seizures

Absence seizures are brief episodes of staring where your child's awareness and responsiveness are impaired. There is no warning before the seizure and typically only lasts a few seconds. The child is alert immediately afterwards and doesn't even realize anything happened. Sometimes it looks like the child is daydreaming with eye blinking, staring, eye drooping and hand gestures. This type is so brief it is often not detected.

Seizures without fever

Seizures without fever typically last 30–90 seconds and may be able to be controlled with anti-seizure medicines. There are many causes and approximately 40% are from unknown causes.

If your child has a seizure without fever

  • Place your child on the floor or ground and do not restrain or stop the seizure movements. Only move him if he is in a dangerous setting or position.
  • Be sure to remove any harmful objects in the area and place your child on the side or abdomen face down to help drain secretions.
  • Protect your child's airway and do not put an object in the mouth; especially a finger. If vomiting occurs, clear the mouth with a suction bulb if available.

Try to time. If the seizure lasts more than 10 minutes, call an ambulance. After the seizure is over, your child may be tired. Try having your child sleep or lay down to recover. Be sure to discuss the seizure with your healthcare provider to determine if anticonvulsant medicine should be taken to help your child with future seizures. Children taking certain anticonvulsant medicines may have their blood tested periodically.

Seizures with fever

Seizures can also be caused by a fever from an infection in the body. Sometimes seizures can be caused by hot baths or hot weather. For most children, a seizure from a fever will only happen once. However, some may have seizures over the next few years, usually stopping by age 5 or 6 years.

If your child has a seizure with fever

Follow the same steps as seizures without fever and follow the additional steps to control the fever. Bringing your child's fever down as quickly as possible may shorten the seizure.

  • Remove your child's layered clothing and put cool towels on the face and neck. If the seizure continues, cool the body with lukewarm water.
  • When the seizure is over and your child is awake, give the usual dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for your child's weight and age. Continue giving the medicine for the first 48 hours of the illness.
  • Don't cover your child with too many layers of blankets. Bundling during sleep can push temperatures up.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.

Precautions

If your child is prone to seizures, avoid excessive amounts with activities that would be unsafe, such as climbing a tree or rope, cycling, swimming alone and unsupervised play. Showers are also recommended over baths.

Learn more about seizures and epilepsy on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.