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What is a seizure?

The brain is like a computer, run by electricity from chemical reactions. A seizure occurs when electrical parts of the brain are overactive. This may cause staring or jerking movements of the arms and legs, and stiffening of the body. During the seizure, your child's lips may become bluish and he/she may not have normal breathing. The movements are often followed by a period of sleep or confusion. It is most important to protect your child from harm during a seizure. Here are some tips that will help you.

What to do during a seizure:

  1. Even though you may feel frightened, try to stay calm.
  2. Stay with your child until the seizure stops.
  3. Notice what time the seizure starts and stops and what body parts are involved.
  4. If your child is sitting or standing, gently ease him/her to the floor. Keep child's head from falling backward. Turn your child on his/her side. A soft object may be placed under the head to prevent injury.
  5. Loosen tight clothing.
  6. Move tables, chairs, or other hard objects away so that they will not hurt your child. (If objects cannot be removed, gently slide your child away from them.)

What not to do during a seizure:

  • Do not try to open your child's mouth or place anything between his teeth. This could injure his/her gums or break his/her teeth. If there is mucus or food affecting breathing, gently try to remove it.
  • Do not try to stop your child's movement.
  • Do not try to shake your child “out of it”.
  • Do not let your child turn over on his back. Position the child on his/her side with the chin up and the head in a “sniffing” position. This will prevent saliva or vomit from going down the wind pipe.

What to watch for:

Some children get a feeling or "aura" before a seizure begins. Muscle twitching, irritability, headache, vision changes or upset stomach may be part of your child's aura, but this is different for each child.

Your child’s doctor may want to know what the seizure was like so watch your child during the seizure. After the seizure, write down what you saw. Look for such things as:

  • Where did the seizure start? (hands, arms, legs, eyes)
  • Did the seizure stay in one area of the body or did it move to other areas too?
  • What type of movement did you see? (jerking, twitching, stiffness)
  • How many minutes did the seizure last? (Time the seizure with a watch, if possible.)
  • Precipitating/trigger factors such as fever or head injury

After the seizure:

Your child may have soiled his/her pants or vomited. After you have cleaned your child and/or changed his/her clothes, allow your child to rest. He/she may be very tired and may sleep for a few hours. He/she may complain of a headache or soreness. If your child feels cold, keep him/her warm with a blanket or coat. It is a good idea to check your child's temperature (rectally) as some seizures can be caused by high temperatures. Your child’s doctor will need to know if he/she has a fever.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing or skin color becomes bluish. Call 911 for emergency help if needed.
  • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • Your child cannot be awakened 30 minutes after the seizure.
  • There has been a change in frequency or type of seizure activity.
  • Your child has a fever and you don't know why.

Helpful Tips:

  • Make sure you refill prescriptions before the medicine runs out.
  • Be sure to give the medicine on time.
  • Do not give extra medicine or change the amount of medicine given without asking your child’s doctor.
  • Your child should wear a medication identification bracelet or necklace. Ask your pharmacist or call 1-800-ID-ALERT. If an emergency occurs, the doctor treating your child will need to know he/she is taking this medicine.
  • Tell your child’s school, babysitter, and family friends that he/she has seizures and share first aid tips.
  • Your child should never swim alone, drive alone or ride a bike without a helmet

Call 911 if the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or child stops breathing.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 08/06

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