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Signs Your Young Child May be Having Seizures

Posted 2/24/2017 by UHBlog

Most seizures have no warning. Talk to us if you suspect your child is having recurrent seizures.

Signs Your Young Child May be Having Seizures

Seeing your toddler unexpectedly start shaking or trembling for no reason can be one of the scariest moments a parent experiences. But before you start to panic, it may help you to know there are many different types of seizures, some that children outgrow without long-term consequences or brain damage.

“Seizures are symptoms that arise due to many different causes,” says pediatric epileptologist Jun Park MD, who specializes in seizure disorders. “Febrile seizures are the most common in children, seen in up to 4 percent of healthy children. These start at around 18 months, and then they’re gone by the time the child is 6 years old.”

According to Dr. Park, treating seizures is based on the diagnosis and seizure type, and antiepileptic drug may not be necessary in all children with seizures.

“Your child's prognosis is dependent on the identifiable cause of seizures,” he says.

It’s important to remember that seizures – abnormal, prolonged electrical activity in the brain – aren’t themselves diseases.

“They are a manifestation of other underlying medical conditions involving the brain, the same way a cough is a manifestation of a cold or of pneumonia,” he says. “Seizures can arise not only from physical insults to the brain, but also from genetic or metabolic abnormalities.”

There are a number of signs that may indicate your newborn, infant or child with a known brain injury is having a seizure, Dr. Park says. These include:

  • Quick muscle jerks for no reason, typically while awake
  • Unusual stiffening of arms or legs
  • Rhythmic shaking on one or both sides of the body
  • Eyes rolling upwards, sometimes associated with the body stiffening and/or jerking - known as a “grand-mal” seizure
  • The mouth area turning blue in a newborn or infant
  • Not responding to noise or words for brief periods
  • The arms and body contracting while the legs stretch out

If you suspect your child is having a grand-mal seizure where the whole body stiffens and shakes, immediately call 9-1-1. Additionally, you want to:

  • Clear the area of sharp objects. “During a whole body shaking seizure, make sure there’s nothing in the vicinity that they could hit against,” Dr. Park says.
  • Turn your child on their side. Turning them on their side will help clear their air passages.
    “A lot of people think that if a child is choking, they should put their finger in his mouth and do a mouth sweep, but that’s a big no-no,” he says. “It’s dangerous to put anything in a child’s mouth during a seizure.”
  • Time the seizure. It’s important for your doctor and other medical professionals to know how long the seizure lasted.

In infants, untreated seizures can cause a loss of developmental milestones. Dr. Park says. That’s why it’s important to get them checked out as soon as possible.

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital provides a New-Onset Seizure Clinic and recently introduced a new Epileptic (infantile) Spasms Program, where your child can be seen within one to two working days for an evaluation. The epileptic spasms program is directed by Dr. Park and is the first of its kind in the region to provide formalized, coordinated, in-depth and timely care to patients, while making a drug available onsite that is commonly used to treat epileptic spasms. Once an epileptic (infantile) spasm is diagnosed, doctors are able to start the treatment with an anticonvulsant medicine – known as Vigabatrin.

“We are a group of subspecialists that’s become one team for the diagnosis and treatment of epileptic (infantile) spasms without delay,” says Dr. Park. Along with Dr. Park, pediatric epileptologist Asim Shahid, MD is available to see patients.

Jun Park, MD is a pediatric epileptologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. You can request an appointment online with him or Dr. Asim Shahid at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s pediatric epilepsy specialty clinic.

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