Are seizures normal in children?
No, seizures in children are not normal. A seizure occurs when a child’s brain cells have a sudden burst of electrical activity. Such a sudden increase in activity can be caused by an injury, infection or underlying health condition. These are not normal for babies.
A child’s seizure can be a neurological emergency. This type of neurological emergency is very common in the first 4 weeks after birth. Some seizures may occur once and may not last more than a few minutes. However, some seizures may be very frequent.
Frequent seizures can disrupt the frequent supply of oxygen to the baby’s brain and can also lead to excessive brain activity. These types of seizures require immediate treatment to ensure no lasting damage is done.
Signs and symptoms of seizures in children
Because babies have random and jerky movements, seizures can be difficult to detect. Also, in some cases, seizures may not last long enough for you to notice. A seizure can affect the whole body or just one part at a time. Let’s see the symptoms displayed by each part of the body.
- Eyes – Very blurry or flickering, wandering or rolling, opens wide and stares
- Mouth – chewing, sucking, pursed lips and a protruding tongue
- Legs – Starts pedaling or cycling abnormally
- Body – Fighting or beating around. Muscles become stiff and stiff or the whole body begins to shake.
- Limbs – An arm or leg stiffens and may begin to jerk suddenly and rapidly
- Head – Tonic convulsions involve turning the head or eyes to one side.
- Breathing – Sudden long pauses, also known as apnea.
- Other – rhythmic jerking movements of the muscles of the face, arms, legs, tongue or other parts of the body.
Causes seizures in children
A child has seizures due to abnormal brain activity. It can be caused by a brain injury or other health conditions. Some common causes of seizures in children are:
1. Brain injury
Trauma to the head or trauma during or after birth can cause brain damage. Such injuries can also occur during birth when the doctor uses a vacuum or forceps to deliver the baby.
A serious bacterial infection such as group B strep or a viral infection such as encephalitis or even the flu can cause brain inflammation and seizures.
3. Increased body temperature
Flu and fever can lead to a feverish convulsion that lasts only a few minutes. They are common in young children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
4. Fluid build-up
When fluid builds up in the brain (hydrocephalus) without draining properly, it can increase pressure on the brain and cause seizures. It can be caused by a head injury during or after birth.
5. Premature birth
If the baby is born prematurely and is still very underdeveloped, this can lead to sudden electrical activity in the brain that can cause seizures.
6. Cerebral palsy
One of the common symptoms of cerebral palsy is seizures. The baby will not have enough control over their muscles, thus causing convulsions or jerky movements.
7. Drug withdrawal
Babies born to mothers who are addicted (alcohol or other substances) may have neonatal seizures as withdrawal symptoms.
Benign neonatal seizures occur on the fifth day and babies inherit it from their mother or father, who also had a similar seizure as the baby. It is also known as fifth day seizure or fit.
9. Other reasons
Some other health problems that can cause seizures in children are – epilepsy, stroke, low blood sugar, bleeding in the brain, blood clots in the brain or brain tumors. Seizures can occur when these problems become very severe.
Types of seizures in children
Different parts of the brain are responsible for the activities of different parts of the body. Seizures can occur anywhere in the body. Children have different types of seizures
1. Focal seizures
When electrical activity in the brain occurs in certain regions or sides of the brain, it is a focal or partial seizure.
2. Atonic seizures
These seizures can cause a sudden loss of muscle tone in the baby. As a result, the child may become lazy. They may suddenly drop their arms and head like a rag doll and become unresponsive.
3. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
Also known as grand mal seizures, they occur periodically. First, the baby’s body and limbs will contract and straighten, then the body will tremble, and then the whole body will finally relax.
4. Absence seizures
Absence seizures are short and last about 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Also known as petit mal seizures, these are common in children aged 4-5 years. During this seizure, the baby’s eyes suddenly widen and freeze for a few seconds. This can happen multiple times a day and is easy to miss.
5. Febrile convulsions
High fever initiates these seizures. It’s not always a neurological problem, but children with brain damage are at a higher risk of having these types of seizures.
5. Infantile seizures
These are neonatal seizures that affect babies younger than 6 months. They are very rare and cause sudden convulsions in the baby’s neck, body or limbs. They can happen when the baby is awake or falling asleep and can happen several times a day. If left untreated, seizures in newborns can have very serious and long-lasting effects on the baby.
How are seizures in children diagnosed?
When you notice that your baby is frequently twitching or having seizures, you should consult a doctor immediately. The doctor will perform an EEG – electroencephalogram – to measure the electrical activity occurring in the brain. This test will reveal that the baby has abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can cause seizures.
Doctors will perform multiple EEGs to get enough data to compare brain activity during and between seizures.
If the EEG doesn’t reveal much, the doctor may go for a CT scan or MRI to check for structural changes or damage to the brain. A blockage can cause seizures in children.
How can I prevent my baby from having seizures?
Getting the right medical help and treatment as soon as possible can prevent or reduce the recurrence of seizures. If the seizures cannot be stopped completely, treatments can ensure that the baby has no permanent damage.
Once the medication and treatment is started, make sure your child takes the medication without giving the prescribed dose.
Treatment options for seizures in children
It is important to identify the cause of seizures and treat them as soon as possible. Doctors may prescribe anticonvulsant drugs under close supervision to ensure there are no adverse reactions. In cases of loss of oxygen to the brain, the doctor may choose to treat hypothermia. In this treatment, they will cool the baby’s brain and gradually bring it back to normal temperature.
Seizures in children are not uncommon yet unheard of. While some seizures may fade, some may require close monitoring and treatment, to avoid any lasting effects. If your child suddenly becomes unresponsive or shows signs of a seizure, it is important to consult a doctor immediately.
1. Do seizures in children go away?
It varies depending on the cause. If the convulsions are in the neonatal stage and are not very strong or recurrent in nature, they may go away as the child grows.
2. At what age do babies start having seizures?
Seizures may begin 2 days after birth. These are neonatal seizures and children need close monitoring
3. Are seizures painful for children?
Seizures may not be painful but can be frightening and uncomfortable for children. It can also be very tiring for the baby, thus keeping them restless and clingy.