These occur mainly in young children and may be so subtle that they aren’t noticed until they begin affecting schoolwork. Convulsions occur in about 5 out of every 100 people at some time during childhood. By contrast, “absence” seizures (previously called “petit mal” seizures) are momentary episodes with a vacant stare or a brief (one- or two-second) lapse of attention.
If your child is having a convulsion, protect her from injuring herself by laying her on her side with her hips higher than her head, so she will not choke if she vomits. Most seizures will stop on their own and do not require immediate medical treatment.
The term epilepsy is used to describe seizures that occur repeatedly over time without an acute illness (like fever) or brain injury. Sometimes the cause of the recurring seizures is known (symptomatic epilepsy), and sometimes it is not (idiopathic epilepsy).
These sometimes can start with focal movements (those involving one specific part of the body) and progress to generalized (i.e., both sides of the body) movements. The terms convulsion and seizure can be used interchangeably. A convulsion that involves the whole body (sometimes called a “generalized tonic-clonic” or “grand mal” seizure) is the most dramatic type of seizure, causing rapid, violent movements and occasionally loss of consciousness.
If you need additional support or information, consult with your pediatrician or contact your local or state branch of the Epilepsy Foundation of America. topic landing page.
Febrile convulsions (seizures caused by high fever ) occur in 3 or 4 out of every 100 children between six months and five years of age, but most often around twelve to eighteen months old.
(Only 1 in 100 adults ever has a seizure.) Unfortunay, a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion about seizures still exists, so it is important that your child’s friends and teachers become educated about her condition. As frightening as seizures can be, it's encouraging to know that the likelihood that your child will have another one drops greatly as she gets older.
Febrile convulsions usually last less than two or three minutes, and ordinarily the child’s behavior shortly returns to normal. A febrile convulsion can cause reactions as mild as a rolling of the eyes or stiffening of the limbs, or as startling as a generalized convulsion with twitching and jerking movements that involve the whole body.
2009 American Academy of Pediatrics.
Nevertheless, only a very small number out of 100 children will go on to develop chronic seizures without a fever. Children younger than one year at the time of their first simple febrile seizure convulsion have approximay a 50 percent chance of having another, while children over one year of age when they have their first seizure have about a 30 percent chance of having a second one.
They may occur just once or may recur over a limited time period. Again, although these episodes may resemble epilepsy or true seizures, they are not, and they require quite different treatment.
Sometimes these seizures are referred to as “fits” or “spells.”. Depending on how many muscles are affected by the electrical impulses, a seizure may cause sudden stiffening of the body or complete relaxation of the muscles, which can make a person appear to be paralyzed temporarily. Seizures are sudden temporary changes in physical movement, sensation, or behavior caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain.
Examples include:. Some children experience sudden episodes that might masquerade or imitate seizures, but are really not.
Epilepsy vs seizure