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What to Do When a Child Is Having Seizures

A seizure is a temporary surge of abnormal electrical signals in the brain that disrupt your child’s current activity, according to Children’s Hospital Boston. It can manifest as a dreamy staring-into-space look or as the body shaking uncontrollably. No matter how your child experiences seizures, it’s scary to watch. Keep your child safe and work with your doctor to minimize the number of seizures your child has.

During the Seizure

If your child starts to have a seizure, safety should be your first concern. Since he cannot control his movements, it’s up to you to make sure he’s safe. Move him to a safe place, such as lying him down on the floor, and make sure that there are no objects around that he might hurt himself with. In the past, the recommendation was to place something in the mouth for the person to clamp down on, but the current recommendation is to avoid this for fear of choking.

General Safety

Though some children only experience seizures during certain times — during a fever, for example — many have seizures erratically. You cannot predict when a seizure will come, so you’ll need to take extra precautions to keep her safe. For instance, she should always wear a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle or using roller skates, and an adult should be present if she is swimming.

Danger Signs

Most seizures will pass within one to three minutes. If the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, you should call an ambulance. You should also call an ambulance if your child is having trouble breathing, seems sick, has heart troubles or has a head injury.


The type of seizure where a child loses control of her body, often shaking, is a grand mal seizure. It’s common among those with epilepsy, though others can have them as well. In a petit mal seizure, however, your child may simply appear to be dreamy, staring off into space. If it’s a true seizure rather than daydreaming, this will occur suddenly, in the middle of doing something else. Work with your doctor to determine the type of seizure that your child has and the causes, which will help with treatment.

Consider Your Options

Medication can often prevent or minimize the risk of seizures. However, it’s important that your teenager knows that seizure medication decreases the effectiveness of birth control pills and that it’s harmful to a fetus. You may also be able to manage your child’s problem with a ketogenic diet — high in fat and low in carbohydrates. This may mean a big lifestyle change, but if it prevents seizures, it’s worth it. Only try this under the direction of your doctor.

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