Dealing with Convulsions in Children
Convulsions, which are common in children, are not life-threatening. However, they may cause your child to phase out for some time and in certain rare cases, lead to more severe consequences. Learn about the symptoms involved and the immediate steps to be taken.
Any sudden electric abnormality in the brain can cause your child to have a convulsion. Also, known as seizure or fit, this involves an altered state of consciousness. During a fit, your child may suddenly become unresponsive or twitch involuntarily. This happens in a mild seizure. However, if he has a more serious one, the convulsion may last for more than 2-3 minutes, where the child may lose bladder and bowel control as well.
Types of Convulsions in Children
1. Febrile Seizure
This is caused by high fever in which the temperature is higher than 38 degrees Celsius. This change in temperature causes an unusual electrical discharge in the brain of the child, causing a convulsion. It can be seen occurring in 3 or 4 out of every 100 children, within the age group of six months to five years, but more common between 12-18 months old children. It has also been noted that children who experience a febrile seizure between the age group of 12 months, tend to have around 50 per cent chances of having it again and ones who are over 1 year old have 30 per cent chances of having another one.
Symptoms of Febrile Seizure
- It stays on for around 2-3 minutes.
- Usually, the child returns to his normal behaviour afterwards.
- Child jerks and twitches during this seizure.
- Other signs like stiffening of his limbs or rolling of his eyes may also be involved.
Epilepsy is that state of condition where your child has multiple seizure, but is not the result of a fever or any other external cause. The risk of epilepsy is greater in kids, with previous abnormal neurological development, and has a history of epilepsy in immediate relatives, prolonged febrile convulsions (lasting more than 10 minutes), and multiple convulsions during a single occasion of fever.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Epilepsy includes different types of seizures and they exhibit different types of symptoms.
- General seizures which are of tonic-clonic type. These occur without any warning and impact the entire brain; often causing the child to lose consciousness and also fall down. The body becomes stiff, legs and arms also start to jerk in a rhythmic manner. Child may also drool and wet himself.
- In some seizures the child just stares blankly into space and witnesses an altered conscious state. This may last for 30 seconds.
- Another type of seizure is focal or partial which initiates in only one part of the brain. In this case, the child may or may not have loss of awareness. It may include sensory disturbance, muscle twitching and a temporary inability to talk.
False Convulsions in Children
In many cases, children witness certain episodes that may imitate seizures but are not. Some of them include:
- Fainting (Syncope)
- Breath holding
- Sleep disorders; this may include sleepwalking, cataplexy and night terrors
- Facial or body twitching (Myoclonus)
These abnormal activities may occur only once or within a limited period. But they are not convulsions and demand different treatment.
What to do if your Child has Convulsions
- In most cases, the seizures are normal and thus do not warrant any immediate medical attention. You can protect your child from convulsion by just laying him on the side with his hips higher than the head; this will prevent him from choking, in case he vomits. Also, make sure you do not put anything in his mouth.
- If the seizure lasts for more than 2-3 minutes, or the child is having other symptoms like blueness of skin, choking, difficulty in breathing etc. then call for emergency help. Make sure you do not leave the child unattended at any point.
- Children who witness a convulsion due to fever are recommended a proper pediatric check for any kind of infection. In circumstances where the child has no fever and experienced convulsion for the first time, doctors check for family history of any type of seizures or episodes in the past of any head injury. Certain tests including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CAT) will be conducted.
- Some parents try to control the febrile convulsion in their children by giving him acetaminophen. However, it is important to know that it does not stop the fever but merely makes the child comfortable. For cases with serious seizures caused due to meningitis, the child will have to be hospitalized.
- In cases of epilepsy the child will be given anticonvulsant medication. If given in appropriate doses, the seizures can be controlled. However, you will have to get your child’s blood tested and ECG done periodically.
Seizures of short duration do not usually demand serious attention, but it is important that you get your child to a doctor right after his first convulsion. This will strike out any underlying problems that may cause more serious convulsions in the future.