Signs Your Child Is Having a Seizure

March 25, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Luke Tomycz, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatric Neurosurgery.

Seizures are an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain, and believe it or not, are fairly common in kids.

Seizures can be frightening to witness, but not all seizures are that obvious. So it’s important to know the possible signs.

“It’s tough to look for just one or two things,” says Luke Tomycz, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Hackensack University Medical Center. “Seizures can look very different in different people.”

Warning Signs of a Seizure

Here are some of the warning signs that a child is having a seizure:

  • Staring and/or periods of rapid eye blinking
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Confused speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Appearing confused or in a haze
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

During a seizure, your child’s lips may appear blue and his or her breathing may be irregular. After the seizure, your child may be sleepy or confused or even forget entirely what just happened.

“Some children will laugh uncontrollably while having a seizure,” Dr. Tomycz says. “Others might hallucinate or see spots or have vomiting episodes, so there are many different things to look for.”

What to Do if Your Child Is Having a Seizure

If you notice your child is having a seizure:

  • First, don’t panic.
  • Stay with your child.
  • Do not restrain them.
  • Do your best to time the episode or, even better, record it.

“It will help your doctor diagnose your child if they can see a video of the episode,” Dr. Tomycz says. “The more information, the better.”

When to Call 911

Seizures do not usually require emergency medical attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should only call 911 if one or more of these are true:

  • The person has never had a seizure before.
  • The person has difficulty breathing or waking after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person has another seizure soon after the first one.
  • The person is hurt during the seizure.
  • The seizure happens in water.
  • The person has a health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or is pregnant.

“Seizures can be very subtle, so families typically under-report them because they don’t see them,” Dr. Tomycz says. “But you want to get help soon so the seizures stop before any real damage is done to the brain cells.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.