What is a seizure?
A seizure occurs when the nerve cells in the brain send out sudden, excessive, uncontrolled electrical signals. Everyone’s brain has continuous electrical activity. When something goes wrong with this activity, your child may have a seizure. Seizures can produce a variety of symptoms depending on what part of the brain is involved. Seizures can range from something as simple as a strange feeling in your stomach to uncontrolled rhythmic movements of your entire body, called a convulsion.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is characterized by two (2) or more unprovoked seizures. Once a person has had two (2) seizures which were not provoked by something such as fever, illness, or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol he will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Epilepsy is common. Epilepsy is more common in children under the age of five (5) and adults over the age of 65, but can occur in anyone at any time in their life.
What do seizures look like?
There are many different types of seizures. Not everyone falls and shakes when they have a seizure. But not everyone who does fall on the ground and starts shaking is having a seizure. There are many other kinds of problems that can look like seizures. Some things that can be confused for seizures in children include syncope (fainting), breath holding, reflux (spitting up) in babies, and anxiety attacks.
There are two main types of seizures: generalized and partial. One type is not better to have than the other; they are just different. It is helpful to figure out what type of seizure your child has in order to choose the most effective medication.
What do I do if my child has a seizure?
Try not to panic! Seizures are very scary but you need to stay calm. It is your job to protect your child during the seizure to keep them from being hurt.
As soon as you know your child is starting to have a seizure:
1) Gently try to get them into a position where they are safe. If they are standing or sitting, get them to the floor or a soft surface where you can lay them on their side.
2) Stay with your child. Use a watch or clock to time the seizure. Observe your child’s behavior and movements.
3) Do not put anything in your child’s mouth. They cannot swallow their tongue and often they clench their teeth together. If you try to put something in their mouth you are likely to hurt them or yourself.
4) Do not try to stop or restrain their movements.
5) Children often foam at the mouth or drool during a seizure. If they are turned on their side, this will run out of their mouth rather than pooling in the back of their throat.
6) Some children do not have convulsing types of seizures, but may just stare or act unusual. If your child has this type of seizure, you just need to stay with them and keep them safe.
What do I do when the seizure is over?
After a seizure, especially a convulsion, children often are very confused and tired. Sometimes they fall into a deep sleep and sleep for several hours. It is okay to let them sleep. Check on your child frequently until he returns to his normal self. Call your neurology provider to update them on your child's seizure activity.
When do I need to call for help?
Call 911 if:
1) Your child’s seizure lasts more than five (5) minutes.
2) Several seizures occur in a short period of time without the child recovering in between the seizures.
3) Your child was hurt during the seizure.
4) Your child will not respond in any way to you 30 minutes after the seizure.
5) Your child is having trouble breathing.
What precautions can I take to keep my child from being hurt during a seizure?
Drowning is the number one cause of injury from seizures. Never leave your child alone in a bathtub or near any water. A child can drown in less than an inch of water.
Older children usually prefer to shower and can be unsupervised but they need to:
1) Remove the drain stop if they are showering in a tub.
2) Leave the bathroom door unlocked.
3) Make sure someone is in the house when they are showering.
4) No child or teen should ever swim unsupervised
Parents should watch all young children and be within reaching distance of them in the water.
Other safety precautions include:
If a child’s seizures are not well controlled and are occurring on a daily or weekly basis, greater precautions may be necessary such as not allowing any water activities and bike riding. Some children who have frequent seizures resulting in falls and frequent injuries may benefit from wearing a protective helmet during any physical activity.