Understanding Seizures in Young Children

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.

If you have ever witnessed a seizure, it’s pretty scary. You feel may alarm, anxiety, fear, helplessness, confusion and/or extreme sadness. If you have never experienced someone having a seizure before, you may wonder what to do, how to help, whether or not you should call 911, and any number of other things. Not knowing what to do, you then likely just stand there and watch helplessly.


When it’s an adult that is having a seizure, it’s scary enough. However, when it’s a child, much less if it’s your own child, it’s much worse. That scariness escalates to major concern, the thought of their well-being, a worry if you did something to cause it, and the need to do something about it. When your child has a seizure, you are left with the past, what may have caused the seizure, or even just the concern with what just happened to your child. You may feel a great deal of guilt that you can’t shake.

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You are also left with the future, likely wondering what to do know, and how to keep this from happening again. You may even be asking if your child suffered any physical damage from whatever just happened and if it’s something that will be a problem for life. All of these concerns, thoughts and worries, whether it’s only happened once, or whether it’s happened many times, are perfectly valid and understandable. It’s your job to be concerned for the well-being of your children and to worry. It’s what keeps them safe and alive.

Hopefully this article can help to shed some light on your situation, or prepare you for possibly coming across this in the future. I would never wish this on anyone, but in the case that it has or it does, I’m hoping you find the answers and understanding you need below.

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.

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What Exactly is Happening During a Seizure?

Your brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons, which communicate with one another through tiny electrical impulses. A seizure occurs when a large number of the cells send out an electrical charge at the same time. This intense wave of electricity overwhelms the brain and results in a seizure, which can cause muscle spasms, a loss of consciousness, strange behavior, or other symptoms.

Unfortunately, it is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. It affects children and adults of all races and ethnic backgrounds. I have been on different sides of this seizure epidemic myself. When I was teaching elementary school in my 20s, I experienced students in my classroom with seizures. I was taught what they looked like for each child, how to handle them and what to do in the aftermath, or if they lasted too long. It was very scary at first, but then I learned how to recognize and handle them when it happened.

Then after having my first child, when my Elliot was still a baby, I saw it happen again, this time with my own child. He would suddenly, it seemed, start convulsing and it would last a few seconds at the most. Even though I had previous experience with seizures, nothing prepared for me experiencing it happening with my own child. Thankfully it only happened a few times, and in the four years he has blessed us by being in our lives, it has never happened again. I am grateful that I did the research I did to know what they were, and that they never became anything serious.

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.

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Different Types of Seizures

There are many different types of seizures. The type of seizure that someone experiences truly depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected. As this article is focused on children, I think it’s important to outline those seizures that are most common in childhood to give you an understanding of what you are seeing, and hopefully give you a little comfort.

The main types of seizures that happen in children are as follows:

  • Neonatal seizures –These occur within 28 days of birth. Most occur soon after the child is born. They may be due to a large variety of conditions. It may be difficult to determine if a newborn is actually seizing, because they often do not have convulsions. Instead, their eyes appear to be looking in different directions. They may have lip smacking or periods of no breathing.
  • Infantile seizures – These kind of seizures are common in children younger than 18 months. They are often associated with mental retardation and consist of sudden spasms of muscle groups, causing the child to assume a flexed stature. They are frequently seen upon awakening.
  • Febrile seizures – These occur when a child contracts an illness such as an ear infection, a cold, or the chickenpox accompanied by fever. Febrile seizures are the most common type of seizure seen in children. 2-5% percent of children have a febrile seizure at some point during their childhood. 1 in 4 children who have a febrile seizure will have another, usually within a year.
  • Epilepsy seizures -The term epilepsy says nothing about the type of seizure or cause of the seizure, only that the seizures happen again and again. 30% of children diagnosed with epilepsy continue to have repeated seizures into adulthood, while others improve over time.
Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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The two main types of seizures that take place in the general population are called focal (partial) seizures and generalized seizures.

Focal seizures take place when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas on one side of the brain. Before a focal seizure, your child may have some signs that the seizure is about to happen. The most common sign involves your child suddenly feeling impending doom or fear. Your child may also have visual changes, hearing abnormalities, or changes in sense of smell. The 2 types of focal seizures are:

  • Simple focal seizure -The seizure activity is limited to an isolated muscle group. For example, it may only include the fingers, or larger muscles in the arms and legs. He may only have temporary visual or hearing impairment as well, but it is typically a muscle group that is affected. She may also have sweating, nausea, or become pale. Your child won’t lose consciousness in this type of seizure.
  • Complex focal seizure -This type of seizure often occurs in the area of the brain that controls emotion and memory function. She will likely lose consciousness and may just stop being aware of what’s going on around her. He may look awake, but have a variety of unusual behaviors. These may range from gagging, lip smacking, running, screaming, crying, or laughing. She may also be sleepy after the seizure.
Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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A generalized seizure occurs in both sides of the brain. Your child will likely lose consciousness and be tired after the seizure. Types of generalized seizures include:

  • Absence seizure -This is also called petit mal seizure. This seizure causes a brief changed state of consciousness and staring. He will likely maintain posture, but his mouth or face may twitch or his eyes may blink rapidly. The seizure usually lasts no longer than 30 seconds. When the seizure is over, she may not recall what just occurred and may go on with activities as though nothing happened. These seizures may occur several times a day. This type of seizure is sometimes mistaken for a learning or behavioral problem and almost always start between the ages of 4 to 12 years old.
  • Atonic seizure -This is also called a drop attack. With an atonic seizure, your child has a sudden loss of muscle tone and may fall from a standing position or suddenly drop his head. During the seizure, she will be limp and unresponsive. This one is pretty scary.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizure (GTC) -This is also called grand mal seizure. The classic form of this kind of seizure has 5 distinct phases. Your child’s body, arms, and legs will flex, straighten out, and shake. This is followed by contraction and relaxation of the muscles and being very sleepy afterward. He may have problems with vision or speech, and may have a bad headache, fatigue, or body aches after the seizure due to his muscles contracting. Not all of these phases occur in everyone with this type of seizure.
  • Myoclonic seizure -This type of seizure causes quick movements or sudden jerking of a group of muscles. These seizures tend to occur in clusters. This means that they may occur several times a day, or for several days in a row.

In any case, you should immediately see a doctor just to assess the condition of your child, and possibly diagnose the problem.

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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What are the Symptoms to Look For?

It really depends on the type of seizure your child is experiences to know exactly what to look for. Some children do not twitch and jerk, like you’d think would happen when someone is having a seizure. Sometimes a seizure happens and you would never even know about it, because the symptoms involve the child just staring out into space for a few seconds or clapping.

If you truly think something is wrong, or that your child is experiencing a seizure, it’s really important to make sure that you document everything that you witness before, during and after the episode so that the type of seizure can be properly diagnosed. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • The most dramatic symptom is generalized convulsions. Your child may undergo rhythmic jerking and muscle spasms, sometimes with difficulty breathing and rolling eyes. He is often sleepy and confused after the seizure and does not remember the seizure afterward. This symptom group is common with grand mal and febrile seizures.
  • Children with absence seizures (petit mal) develop a loss of awareness with staring or blinking, which starts and stops quickly. There are no convulsive movements. These children return to normal as soon as the seizure stops.
  • Repetitive movements such as chewing, lip smacking, or clapping, followed by confusion are common in children suffering from a type of seizure disorder known as complex partial seizures.

Partial seizures usually affect only one group of muscles, which spasm and move convulsively. Spasms may move from group to group. These are called march seizures. Children with this type of seizure may also behave strangely during the episode and may or may not remember the seizure itself after it ends.

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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What Causes Seizures in Children?

Anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain can cause a seizure. But when a child has 2 or more seizures with no known cause, this is diagnosed as epilepsy. Many of the most common reasons for seizures in children include:

  • Fever
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Infections
  • Head trauma
  • Low blood sugar or pressure
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Drugs (taken by child, or by mom during pregnancy)
  • Medications (taken by child, or by mom during pregnancy)
  • Poisons
  • Disordered blood vessels
  • Bleeding inside the brain
  • Uncontrolled firing of neurons
  • Processed foods
  • Refined food ingredients

A seizure may be caused by a combination of these. In many cases, doctors cannot give you the definite cause of a seizure.

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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What Can Trigger a Seizure in a Child?

Most seizures happen randomly, with no obvious pattern. However, there are certain things that seem to trigger or cause a seizure in children. If you know what these triggers are, you can watch to see if they affect your child.

  • Fever -Some children have a seizure when their temperature rises quickly, usually to 102 degrees or higher. These are called febrile seizures, and in most cases do not lead to epilepsy. They affect children between the ages of 3 months and 6 years and are most common in toddlers. About 1/3 of children who have a febrile seizure will have another one, but most children outgrow them.
  • Lights -While it’s not as common as many people believe, flashing or flickering lights caused by sunlight, strobes, video games or computer screens can cause seizures in some people with epilepsy. This is known as photosensitivity. Polarized sunglasses, not sitting too close to a screen, and taking frequent breaks away from the screen can help.
  • Brain disorders -Children who have certain brain conditions, such as tuberous sclerosis, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism, and/or neurofibromatosis may be more likely to have seizures. The underlying brain disturbance may be giving rise to the seizures or make the child more likely to have recurring seizures.
  • Lifestyle/habits -Certain behaviors seem to lead to seizures for some people with epilepsy. Not getting enough sleep and drug or alcohol abuse are just two examples. This may include a variety of prescription medications and even antibiotics.
  • Hormone change -Some girls find that their seizures become more frequent when they go through puberty or at certain points in their menstrual cycle.
  • Processed foods –With all of the chemicals and preservatives in commercial food products, there has been proof found that many of these chemicals, including food dyes, interfere with brain function, hormones, the digestive system, the central nervous system, and the ability for the human body to function properly. When processed foods and refined food ingredients have been removed from the person’s diet, the seizures tend to disappear as well.
  • Other possible seizure triggers –These include bold, high-contrast patterns such as a zebra’s stripes, stress or anxiety, and certain mental processes such as reading or math.
Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

What Do I Do If My Child is Having a Seizure?

Although they may look painful, seizures don’t really cause pain. But they may be frightening for children and the people around them. One of the problems with seizures, is that most people have no control of their actions. It’s possible for children to injure themselves during a seizure if they fall to the ground or hit other things around them. When a child has a convulsion, parents or other caregivers should try to protect the child from harm, for example, by keeping the child away from stairs, sharp objects, and other potential hazards. It may also be helpful to lay your child

Never try to hold a child down, or try to stop the movement of a child, having a seizure. Not only can it be extremely dangerous for the child, but it can also be dangerous for you. Although the majority of seizures aren’t dangerous and don’t require immediate medical attention, one kind does. Status epilepticus is a life-threatening condition in which a person has a prolonged seizure or one seizure after another without regaining consciousness in between them. The risks increase the longer the seizure goes on, which is why you should always get emergency medical help if a seizure lasts more than five minutes.

Related Articles:
Causes of Colic in Infants
Causes, Treatment, and Prevention of Acid Reflux (GERD) in Infants
Whooping Cough in Infants

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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How Do I Prevent My Child From Having Seizures?

If you have a child struggling with epilepsy, it can be frustrating trying to figure out what triggers a seizure. If your child has never had a seizure, but you want to give them the best fighting chance, there are definitely things you can do. There are two big areas that are within your control that may prevent your child from ever having a seizure, or from ever having one again. Providing your child with a diet filled with whole foods, meaning fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and whole grains that have not been processed, and staying far away from over-the-counter and prescriptions medications, will keep those substances out of your child’s body that may be causing the nervous system disruption.

A balanced diet from different food groups obviously helps the body and brain to function, and helps us to stay healthy. But research has shown that it also helps to reduce the risk of seizures for people with epilepsy. A balanced diet may also help to keep a regular sleep pattern and keep active, both of which are good for overall health. Getting enough sleep also helps to reduce the risk of seizures. A diet that is considered balanced is generally made up of whole grain carbohydrates, healthy saturated fats, plant and animal proteins, fresh vegetables and fruit, and plenty of water.

Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
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Here are some common foods that are risky for those who experience seizures:

  • Refined flours and grains -Gluten intolerance may seem like a product of our time, but the fact remains that it is very real for some people. The key to keep in mind is that it is not the gluten, or the carbohydrate for that matter, that is causing the problems. It is the chemicals added to the grains to refine and bleach them that have an inflammatory nature and can trigger a seizure. This can be eliminated by simply cutting out all refined grains like white flour, bread flour and pastry flour, and either buying organic or making your own whole grain bread products.
  • Soy products –Soy is a GMO, or genetically modified organism, meaning that it is created in a laboratory using genetic modification/engineering techniques. Found in many baby foods, soy is now commonly known to trigger allergic reactions and seizures in children, and even cause harm to developing fetuses when ingested by pregnant mothers. It’s a tricky one to avoid, as it sometimes isn’t even labeled. Most processed food products (contained in boxes, bags, cans, or packages) contain soy products. I would consider removing these from your child’s diet altogether.
  • Refined sugars -Processed sugar is a general no-no, no matter what nutritionist you’re speaking with. Most processed foods advertised as “low fat” present themselves as healthy options, when they’re often actually filled with refined white sugar that is way worse for you than anything full-fat would be. Glucose is necessary for normal brain function, but refined sugar has all of the natural nutrients removed during processing, and has often been linked to poor brain activity and triggering seizures. This does not mean cutting back on natural sugars like those found in fresh fruit, but rather those that have been heavily processed. Even organic honey, and other natural sugars like coconut and palm sugar are okay, as they haven’t had the chemicals added or the nutrients removed.
  • Processed meat and dairy products -Another common food allergen, many children have reactions to dairy products that started coming about only in recent decades. This is due to the hormones and antibiotics injected into the animals, and therefore your products, and even the GMO grains fed to the animals covered in pesticides, that make their way into your products. The only way to avoid these is to purchase grass-fed, full fat, organic meat and dairy products. Be sure that your pork products have been labeled nitrate-free, as this chemical has been listed as dangerous.
  • Artificial sweeteners -Artificial sweeteners, like NutraSweet, Equal, and diet soda to name a few, cause all sorts of issues once they’re in your body, like excessive nerve cell firing and increasing the risk of epileptic attacks and other types of seizures. Aspartame, one of most widely consumed food additives in the world, also contains phenylalanine, which is toxic to neurons and also linked to neurological damage and seizure activity.
  • MSG or table salt -Many food additives, such as MSG, are considered to be toxic to human bodies because they stimulate nerve cells to rapidly fire and burn out, which can trigger a seizure in the brain. Unfortunately, it is widely used in the food industry and restaurants as a flavor enhancer as it intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food. Avoiding MSG is as easy as avoiding processed food products. MSG is often listed on food labels as “flavoring,” because the manufacturers know that MSG has developed a bad reputation. Keep in mind that fresh, natural foods shouldn’t and often don’t require flavor enhancement, so preparing your own meals at home with fresh ingredients is the best way to avoid it.
Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.
Photo by Max Goncharov on Unsplash

The Conclusion

Seizures can be very scary regardless of who they are happening to, but they are particularly bad when they are happening to your child. Knowing the signs and symptoms are the first step in protecting your child(ren) from seizures in the future, and knowing how to prevent them from ever happening again is the next step.

There is a long list of toxins and drugs reported to induce seizures in your child’s environment. By eliminating them from your child’s life, you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to keep them as healthy as possible. Seizures don’t have to be the end of the line, or a life sentence for anyone. By taking the necessary steps to finding out what is going on with your child, how to handle them if they happen, and doing everything you can to keep them from coming back, or never happening at all, your child has the best chance of a happy and healthy future.

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Don’t be scared to stand up for your child’s rights, or most especially their health and safety. As a parent, you are the only one that can. Do what you feel is right, and you will be the best safeguard your child can hope for. For more information, please visit the variety of great resources listed within this article, or do even more research on your own. Remember that not everything you read on the internet is as it seems though. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find the right answers.

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Understanding seizures in young children is an eye opening article that will help you recognize and help a child having a seizure, and that will provide you with options for stopping the seizures from happening or preventing them in the first place.

 


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