Article at a Glance

  • Most seizures only last a few minutes and aren’t serious.
  • Your main concern during the seizure is to make sure your child is in a safe place.
  • Be sure to call your doctor right away so that your child can be evaluated.

It is hard to imagine anything scarier than watching your child have a seizure. But seizures are usually not as scary as they look. Most only last a few minutes and don’t result in any lasting medical problems. The most important thing is to stay calm and make sure your child is in a safe place.

What causes seizures?

Seizures happen when the neurons in the brain all start to fire at once, interrupting the brain’s normal electrical function. The symptoms of the seizure depend on which part of the brain is affected. One might experience muscle spasms, odd sensations, unresponsiveness, confusion, stiffening of the body, or loss of consciousness.

Causes can include a high fever, head injury, infection, low blood sugar, drug overdose, congenital conditions, poisoning, a brain tumor, or other medical problems. If somebody has two or more unprovoked, recurrent seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy – a neurological condition that makes people more susceptible to seizures.

What do I do if my child has a seizure?

  1. Make sure your child is in a safe place on the ground where he won’t fall or knock into anything. Don’t try to restrain your child’s movements. Just make sure he is in a place where he can move safely.
  2. If possible, lay your child on his side to prevent choking, especially if your child is drooling a lot. But don’t try to wedge your child’s mouth open or place anything between his teeth.
  3. If the seizure lasts only a few minutes, you can wait until it passes before calling a doctor. But you will want to call your doctor immediately after the seizure so that your child can be seen as soon as possible, especially if this is your child’s first seizure. Your doctor will evaluate your child to make sure that the seizure was not caused by a serious health condition.
  4. Call 911 immediately if:
    • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
    • Your child is having problems breathing or you notice a change of color in your child’s face.
    • Your child recently had a head injury.
    • Your child has a heart condition.
    • Your child has ingested any medications or poisons.
    • You are worried about your child’s safety.
    • Your child does not appear to recover quickly after the seizure.
  5. Often after a seizure, children will experience a postictal period where they will fall into a deep sleep or experience some confusion. As long as your child is breathing fine, it is okay to let him sleep. Until your child is alert, don’t try to get him to eat or drink anything. Seizures are scary, take time to comfort your child.

What are febrile seizures?

One of the most common types of seizures for children ages 3 months to 6 years old are febrile seizures. In the United States, they occur in 2 to 5 percent of children under the age of 5. Febrile seizures can be triggered by a high fever over 101 F or other illnesses like ear infections, colds, or the flu. Although they are frightening to watch, in most cases, febrile seizures only last a few minutes and don’t cause any long-term health problems. But be sure to call your doctor right away so that your child can be evaluated.

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