A to Z Symptoms: Seizure

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A to Z Symptom: Seizure

May also be called: Febrile Seizures; Absence Seizures; Tonic-Clonic Seizures; Petit Mal Seizures; Grand Mal Seizures

More to Know

"Seizure" is a general term that refers to sudden abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that can cause someone to collapse, convulse, or have another temporary disturbance of normal brain function, often with a loss or change in consciousness.

Causes

There are different types of seizures, with different causes and treatments.

  • Some kids under 5 years old have febrile seizures, which can occur when they develop a medium or high fever — usually above 100.4ºF (38ºC). While frightening to watch, these seizures are usually brief and rarely cause any life-threatening, serious, or long-term problems. Febrile seizures stop on their own, while the fever continues until it is treated.
  • A grand mal (or tonic-clonic) seizure is when abnormal electrical activity occurs over both sides of the brain. These seizures can cause whole-body movements and loss of consciousness. After a seizure, kids and teens may be confused, tired, or have a headache. These are managed with medications and, sometimes, a special diet or a device that stimulates a specific nerve.
  • Absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures) can interrupt concentration, focus, and memory. Someone who has one will be momentarily unaware of his or her surrounding. These seizures usually last just seconds, but can occur many times a day. Sometimes the seizure is so brief that it's not noticed by others. Medications can help control symptoms.
  • In older kids, about 10% or more have standard fainting spells (syncope), which is often associated with a brief seizure or seizure-like spell.
  • Epilepsy causes electrical signals in the brain to misfire, which can lead to multiple seizures over a period of time. Anyone can get epilepsy at any age, but most new diagnoses are in kids. Medication to prevent seizures is usually the first type of treatment prescribed for epilepsy management.

Treatment

If epilepsy is suspected, the doctor will order medical tests, including an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure brain wave activity.

Keep in Mind

While absence seizures do not look as serious as some other types of seizures, they can be dangerous if, for example, they occur during swimming, bathing, or driving. Someone who has them should never swim, ride a bicycle, or drive alone.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.



Related Resources

OrganizationNational Institutes of Health (NIH) NIH is an Agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and offers health information and scientific resources.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationEpilepsy Foundation Epilepsy Foundation has information on books, pamphlets, videos, and educational programs about seizure disorders. Call: (800) EFA-1000
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.


Related Articles

First Aid: Fainting Fainting is a loss of consciousness that can be caused by many things. Here's what to do if your child faints or is about to faint.
First Aid: Febrile Seizures These seizures sometimes happen in young children who have fevers. Although they can be scary, febrile seizures aren't usually a sign of something serious.
First Aid: Seizures Although seizures can be frightening, usually they last only a few minutes, stop on their own, and are almost never life threatening.
Breath-Holding Spells Kids who have these spells hold their breath until they pass out. Although upsetting to watch, the spells are not harmful and do not pose any serious, long-term health risks.
Febrile Seizures Febrile seizures are full-body convulsions caused by high fevers that affect young kids. Although they can be frightening, they usually stop on their own and don't cause any other health problems.
Seizures Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. Find out what you need to know about seizures and what to do if your child has one.
Epilepsy Epilepsy causes electrical signals in the brain to misfire, which can lead to multiple seizures over a period of time. Anyone can get epilepsy at any age, but the majority of new diagnoses are in kids.
A to Z: Seizure, Grand Mal A grand mal seizure is a sudden attack that brings on intense muscle spasms and loss of consciousness. It is caused by abnormal brain activity and affects the entire body.
A to Z: Seizure, Petit Mal A petit mal seizure is type of epileptic seizure that causes a person to briefly lose consciousness and stare ahead without moving, appearing "absent."
Is It Normal for Children to Hold Their Breath? Find out what the experts have to say.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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