Family Health

Seizures in Children: The Checklist You Need to Be Prepared

Recently, my 17-month old daughter had her first episode of seizure. It occurred on the 3rd day of her viral gastroenteritis infection. Since it is common in children to have a seizure, whether it is due to fever or any other causes, parents should be aware of what it looks like. Aside from that, I want to share what parents or caregivers should do once a seizure takes place.

What is a seizure? Is it the same as convulsion?

A seizure happens when the electrical activity of the brain goes wrong and there are uncontrollable electrical signals that nerve cells are sending out.

Convulsion is a term used for the uncontrolled rhythmic movement of the entire body. It is a type of seizure and should not be used interchangeably with the word seizure.

What are the types of seizures?

A generalized tonic-clonic seizure is sometimes intense and scary for uninformed and inexperienced parents. It is also called grand mal and generalized convulsion. It consists of a sudden stiffening of muscles alternating with a rhythmic jerky movement pattern of the arms and legs. 

A simple partial seizure is milder than the previous type. The child usually is conscious and this type of seizure affects any of the following: 1) muscles of the body, 2) senses, 3) autonomic nervous system, 4) feelings or thoughts.

In complex partial seizure, the seizure starts on one side of the brain and the child may be somewhat aware of what is happening or not at all. This type of seizure presents with what they call automatisms, such as lip-smacking, fumbling. Also, they are wandering and seem to become unaware of their surroundings.

What to do when your child is having a seizure?

Here’s a checklist that you can follow as soon as you see your child having a seizure:

  1. Secure your child to a safe place, where there is no object around that may hurt him/her.
  2. In cases that you happen to be in a place where there are objects around the scene, remove them and make a clear space for your child.
  3. If you can, place your child on his or her side facing you.
  4. Loosen tight clothing especially around the head and neck.
  5. Never put anything inside the mouth, or any object between the teeth.
  6. Do not restrict the child’s movement as it might cause injury to the child.

As you do the checklist, have someone call 911. If there’s no one aside from you, you might have to do steps 1 and 2 first before reaching out for your phone.

Make sure to observe everything that is happening during the seizure as you might need to describe it when you see the doctor. Some things you should take note of are:

  • what was she doing before the seizure attack?
  • how long did the seizure last?
  • was the child conscious or not?
  • how did the seizure look like?
  • what was the color of the child’s lips?
  • was there a pooling of saliva on the child’s mouth?
  • how was the child doing after the seizure?

My daughter’s first-ever seizure episode

In my daughter’s case, she did had a tonic-clonic type of seizure. I was with her the whole time and my husband called in 911. He was being asked to describe the seizure while on the call and I relay to him whatever I have noticed on Kara, such as purplish lips and pooling of saliva. We put my daughter on her side and the paramedics came in after a few minutes.

Despite being a trained health care professional back home, it was very frightening as a mom to see her with this unpleasant condition. I stayed with her from the ambulance until we get transferred to the hospital. My husband, on the other hand, followed the ambulance as he drove his car. 

Luckily, there were no succeeding episodes of seizure afterward. The doctor told us that her case is called Benign Convulsion with Mild Gastroenteritis. Explaining it will need a separate blog post so if you are interested to read on it, as I have learned that it occurs in 3-4% of kids who are affected with gastroenteritis, you can watch out for that blog entry by subscribing or following by email to this blog.

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