Seizures in Children

By: Mel Hendrickson, BSN, RN and Michelle Benz, RN, Penfield Children’s Center

When a child has a seizure, it can be very upsetting to watch and while it’s happening, even the most well-meaning adult can freeze in a panic. Seizure guidelines have also changed throughout the years and it’s important to learn how to properly assist a child who is having an episode, using the most updated treatment plan. While every child is different, follow these tips to ensure the child is in the safest environment possible while having a seizure.

What to watch for:

  • The time! What time was it and how long did the seizure last?
  • Eyes: Are the child’s eyes open, closed, looking one way or rolled back?
  • Body: Is the child’s body stiff or loose? Is he having abnormal movements of his arms, legs, or trunk? If so were the movements on one side or both?
  • Color: Is the child pale or flushed?
  • Breathing: Has his breathing pattern changed? (Please note: his breathing may stop for a few seconds and should resume once the seizure is over). If the child does not start breathing, call 911 immediately and begin CPR.
  • Alert: Was the child sleeping or did he know what was going on?

Seizure First Aid:

  • KEEP CALM as you cannot stop a seizure.
  • Help the child lie down and make sure the environment is safe (remove any unsafe items such as cords, hard toys, etc.).
  • Gently roll the child to one side to allow for saliva / vomit to drain from his mouth. Keep him in a side-lying position even after he awakes to allow time for recovery.
  • Loosen any tight fitting clothing and place something soft and flat under his head.
  • If the child is wearing glasses, remove them.
  • Do NOT place anything in the child’s mouth as this could cause harm and do not try to hold the child down.
  • Please be sure to know the child’s seizure protocol and if he has a rescue medication.

Call 911 if any of the following occur:

  • The child has NEVER had a seizure before.
  • The episode lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The child has one episode after another and does not recover in between the episodes.
  • The child is injured during the seizure.
  • The child has a head injury.
  • The episode occurred in water.
  • The child does not resume breathing (and start CPR).
  • You are not sure when the episode started.

Being prepared is the FIRST step in helping a child who is having a seizure. After an episode occurs, it is common for the child to be tired. Let him sleep, but make sure to check on him frequently.

What advice would you give to others who might help a child having a seizure? What tips would you give for staying calm?

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