Seizures are a periodic disturbance of the brain’s electrical activity, resulting in some degree of temporary brain dysfunction.
When older infants or young children have seizures, they often have typical symptoms, such as shaking or jerking of part or all of the body, but newborns may only smack their lips, chew involuntarily, or periodically go limp.
Electroencephalography is used to diagnose the disorder, and blood and urine tests, brain imaging, and sometimes a spinal tap are done to try to identify the cause.
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.
Treatment focuses mainly on the cause, but if seizures continue after the cause is treated, children are given anticonvulsants.
Seizures are an abnormal, unregulated electrical discharge of nerve cells in the brain or part of the brain. This abnormal discharge can alter awareness or cause abnormal sensations, involuntary movements, or convulsions. Convulsions are violent, involuntary, rhythmic contractions of the muscles that affect a large part of the body.
Epilepsy is not a specific disorder but refers to a tendency to have recurring seizures that may or may not have an identifiable cause.
Certain conditions in children, such as breath-holding spells and night terrors, may resemble seizures but do not involve abnormal electrical activity in the brain and thus are not seizures.
A seizure itself does not appear to damage the brain or cause lasting problems unless it continues for more than about an hour (most seizures last only a few minutes). However, many disorders that cause seizures can cause lasting problems. For example, some disorders can interfere with the child's development. Whether some types of recurring seizures can affect the developing brain is debated.