Stay calm when your child has a seizure

Watching a child have a seizure can be terrifying for parents. Your child may lose consciousness and her body may shake or twitch for a few seconds – or even minutes.

Fevers sometimes can trigger seizures in babies and toddlers. Usually, these events do not lead to more serious problems.

“But in some cases, seizures are a sign of a seizure disorder, also termed epilepsy, a neurological condition that requires accurate diagnosis and ongoing treatment and care,” says Ingrid Tuxhorn, MD, chief of Pediatric Epilepsy at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Epilepsy – one of the most common disorders of the nervous system – may have many causes that need to be identified and treated.”

What does a seizure look like?

Some seizure symptoms might surprise you; they can be very subtle. The symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure your child has. In addition to shaking or twitching, other warning signs include:

  • Jerky movements
  • Shaking
  • Muscle twitching or tightening
  • Loss of muscle control and falling
  • Vision changes (such as seeing flashing lights)
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Zoning out, swallowing and drooling

What to do when a seizure strikes

During a child’s seizure, it is important to stay calm. “Move any objects that could harm your child,” Dr. Tuxhorn says. “Place your child on his or her side to prevent choking. Do not try to put anything in your child’s mouth or hold him or her down. Cushion the head and other body parts if needed to minimize injury. Loosen any tight clothes, remove glasses and anything nearby that could be a hazard. Stay with your child as he or she recovers from the seizure.”

If it is your child’s first seizure and you need emergency care, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Inform your child’s doctor as soon as possible. If your child has had seizures before, use rescue medication that has been prescribed by your doctor when the seizure lasts longer than five minutes.

tuxhorn-ingridIngrid Tuxhorn, MD
Chief, Pediatric Epilepsy,
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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