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How can I tell if my child is having a seizure?

If your child is suddenly unresponsive and staring vacantly, or seems to be twitching involuntarily, she may be having a mild seizure. Mild seizures usually last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

If your child becomes unconscious, falls to the floor, and twitches or flails, she may be having a more serious seizure. It will probably last only two to three minutes, but in rare cases they last longer, and she may lose bowel and bladder control.

There are many different types of seizures and they can last anywhere from a few moments to more than half an hour.

What should I do during a seizure?

Keep track of how long the seizure lasts. If it goes on for longer than three minutes, call 911. In the meantime, turn your child on her side to prevent her from choking on her own saliva, and wipe saliva away from her mouth to keep her airway clear. As much as you'll want to comfort her, there's nothing you can do to help your child, aside from making sure she doesn't hurt herself.

If your child has had several seizures, your doctor may ask you to videotape the next one. This can be very helpful in determining what type of seizure she's had and what kind of medication would be most helpful.

What causes seizures?

Seizures occur when the nerve cells in the brain fire abnormally as a result of nerve damage, problems with the brain's chemistry, or a high fever. Both nerve damage and brain chemistry irregularities can be caused by a birth defect or by an injury to the brain or nervous system, such as a blow to the head.

Seizures in young children don't usually signal epilepsy. They tend to be caused by high fever. These febrile seizures are usually harmless and quite common in children between 6 months and 5 years old. Young children also sometimes hold their breath involuntarily when they're injured, frightened, or angry, which can lead to a seizure, but they usually grow out of the impulse within a few years. If your child has had two or more seizures that were not caused by fever, head trauma, or breath holding, she may have epilepsy.

What should I do if I think my child has had a seizure?

First try calling your pediatrician, who can help you figure out how serious the seizure was and whether your child needs to see a doctor right away. (If you can't reach a doctor, call 911.)

Your doctor may recommend that you bring your child in for an electroencephalograph (EEG) to record her brain's electrical activity. It may be scary to watch the technician attach electrodes to your child's head, but the procedure is painless. From the results, your doctor will be able to tell whether your child has had a seizure, whether she's likely to have one again, and whether she needs further tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, or a consultation with a neurologist.

Do seizures cause brain damage?

Even if people have them over many years, short seizures do not cause any damage to the brain. Long ones (usually ten minutes or more) can cause brain damage in some people, though. For this reason, doctors consider a seizure that lasts for five minutes or more a medical emergency, even for children who have them regularly.

Watch the video: What Does a Seizure Look Like? (June 2022).


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