A seizure is the same in a child and an adult. When too many nerve cells send signals, your child's brain can't make any sense of them and abnormal things happen. For example, your child might:
Usually after a few minutes, the nerve cells start to behave normally and your child comes back to normal.
Epilepsy is when someone keeps having seizures over a long period of time.
Some children who have a seizure will never have another and don't have epilepsy. Children with epilepsy have many seizures, but the number of seizures varies. Some children have only 1 or 2 seizures a year. Some children have seizures every day.
Most of the time doctors don’t know what makes a child have seizures.
Sometimes seizures are caused by brain damage due to:
Lack of oxygen during birth
Birth defects of the brain
Inherited problems with the body's chemical balance, called metabolic disorders Overview of Hereditary Metabolic Disorders Hereditary metabolic disorders are inherited genetic conditions that cause metabolism problems. Heredity is the passing of genes from one generation to the next. Children inherit their parents'... read more
Use of illegal drugs by a pregnant mother
High fever sometimes causes a seizure (febrile seizure Febrile Seizures Febrile means having a fever. Seizures are convulsions (sudden, jerking motions) caused by an abnormal burst of electrical activity in the brain. Febrile seizures are convulsions that children... read more ) in young children.
Newborns having a seizure may:
A newborn doesn't usually shake all over like an older child having a seizure.
Older infants or young children having a seizure may:
Sometimes convulsions affect only part of the body, such as the arm and leg on one side.
During a seizure, the child isn't aware of what's going on and can't talk or respond to you. However, the child is still breathing. After the seizure, the child is usually a little confused. The confusion can last up to an hour or two.
Despite what you might have heard:
Call an ambulance if:
If your child has a seizure disorder, you should talk to the doctor about when, where, and how urgently to see a doctor if your child has another seizure.
What the doctor does depends on whether:
With a first seizure, it's very important that the doctor look for a dangerous cause. After examining your child, doctors will usually do tests. Those tests can include:
If those tests are normal, the doctor may do a test called an EEG Electroencephalography Diagnostic procedures may be needed to confirm a diagnosis suggested by the medical history and neurologic examination. Electroencephalography (EEG) is a simple, painless procedure in which... read more to measure the brain's electrical signals.
If your child has had seizures before and has already had tests, doctors usually aren't worried unless:
In such cases, your child should see the doctor, and the doctor may repeat some of the tests. If your child is taking medicine to prevent seizures, the doctor will usually do a blood test to make sure there's enough medicine in your child's bloodstream.
If your child has a seizure that's no different from past seizures, then a doctor visit may not be needed. Talk to your doctor in advance about what to do if your child has another seizure.
Some very serious cases of epilepsy can't be controlled by medicines. Then, a child may have brain surgery or another medical procedure to help avoid future seizures.