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Seizures in Children


Pediatric seizures, whether they last a few short seconds or drag on for minutes, can be frightening both for children and their parents. The temporary loss of physical control is unsettling at best and life-threatening at worst. Even a mild seizure can suddenly become dangerous if a child is swimming or engaging in physical activity.

When seeking out a solution or attempting to cope with seizures, it is important to realize that they can have vastly different root causes and treatments. By understanding the distinctions, you can help your child either recover from their condition or learn to live a healthy, successful life with them.

Common types of seizures in children

There are many types of seizures in children and they may occur for many different reasons. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • Febrile seizuresThese types of seizures, which only occur in children, are caused by a sudden spike in body temperature, usually due to an infection or disease. In rare cases, some children may develop a fever after receiving specific vaccinations, including pertussis, tetanus, diphtheria and or measles-mumps-rubella, which can also trigger this kind of reaction.
  • Absence seizure – Unlike the twitching muscles typically associated with seizures, an absence seizure usually consists of a sudden stop in motion or a vacant stare. These seizures, which usually occur in children, often have no known cause, but can typically be treated with medication. One of the difficulties with these seizures is that it may take adults a while to notice them, as most only last 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Epilepsy – Although it is the condition most commonly associated with pediatric seizures, epilepsy can be difficult to understand. For one thing, epileptic seizures, which are triggered by an electrical malfunction in the brain, can take on a variety of forms and could consist of anything from muscle spasms in the arms and legs to a blank stare. A number of factors, including genetics, head trauma, tumors, prenatal injuries, developmental disorders such as neurofibromatosis or autism, or infectious diseases including meningitis or viral encephalitis can contribute to epilepsy. However, roughly half of the cases of epilepsy have no medically identifiable cause, making them especially challenging to treat.

Getting the right treatment and care

The good news for sufferers of epilepsy is that many people can become symptom-free simply by taking the right medication. Anti-seizure medications do have some significant side effects, but more than half of all children taking them are eventually able to discontinue the medication and live the rest of their lives without further incidents.  


  1. Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions – Febrile seizure. Available from: Accessed on July 4, 2015.
  2. Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions – Absence seizure. Available from: Accessed on July 4, 2015.
  3. Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions – Epilepsy. Available from: Accessed on July 4, 2015.
  4. CNN: 7 things to know about epilepsy. Available from: Accessed on July 4, 2015.

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Navarat Rungteeranon, M.D. Summary: Pediatrics Pediatrics