What Are Seizures?

Seizures are caused by abnormal signals in the brain. Seizures can last from a few seconds to minutes. When someone has more than 1 seizure, it is called epilepsy.

What Are Symptoms of a Seizure?

The symptoms can be different, depending on the types of seizures your child has. Sometimes, people know when they are about to have a seizure. They might have a certain feeling or smell a certain odor. Other people do not know when they are about to have a seizure.

Common symptoms of seizures include:

  • Fainting
  • Stiffness in different parts of the body
  • Jerking movements in the hands, arms, feet or legs
  • Suddenly not responding and staring off

How Are Seizures Treated?

Anti-seizure medications are used to treat seizures or make symptoms less severe (not as bad). There are many anti-seizure medications. The care team can talk with you about which medications are right for your child.

What Should I Know About Anti-Seizure Medications?

  • Your child must take the right dose of their antiseizure medications. Stopping and starting or changing the medication can make your child more likely to have a seizure.
  • Your child might need to try more than 1 medication before finding the right one.
  • Anti-seizure medications can cause side effects. Side effects include feeling dizzy, tired or a rash.
  • Tell your child’s care team every time your child starts a new medication. Anti-seizure medications can cause other medications to not work as well.
  • Your child might need regular blood tests to check how well the anti-seizure medication is working.
  • Tell the care team if you need help paying for antiseizure medications. There are other treatments or payment plans.

How Can I Help My Child Have Fewer Seizures?

  • Have your child take anti-seizure medications exactly the way the doctor prescribed them.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can make your child more likely to have a seizure.

Can My Child Go To School or Take Part In Activities They Enjoy?

Yes. Your child can go to school as long as the seizures are under control with anti-seizure medications. Your child needs to bring emergency seizure medication with them to school. Make sure your child’s school nurse knows about the seizure plan and how to give the emergency seizure medication.

Your child can take part in their favorite activities as long as their seizures are under control. There are certain activities that your child should be extra careful with, including:

  • Swimming
  • Taking a bath. If your child is old enough, encourage them to take showers instead of baths.
  • Driving. If your child is old enough for a driver’s license, ask the care team if they can be allowed to drive.
  • Climbing trees, especially near busy streets or traffic
  • Riding a bike, scooter or roller-skates

What Can I Expect For My Child's Seizures in the Future?

Anti-seizure medications usually work well to control your child’s seizures. Your child might need to try more than 1 before finding the right one. Sometimes, children can grow out of seizures as they get older.

Ask the care team what to expect for your child over the next few months. Every child’s seizures are different.

When Should My Child See the Doctor?

Call the doctor if:

  • You are worried that your child’s seizure medication is not working, or you are worried about side effects of the medication.
  • Your child cannot take the medication for any reason, such as illness or losing the medication
  • Your child has an illness, such as a cold, fever or vomiting
  • Your child is still having seizures even with the medication

When Should I Call 911?

Call 911 or go to your closest emergency room if your child has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes. Give your child their emergency seizure medication while you wait for help.

What Should I Do If My Child is Sick?

Ask your child’s care team to help you make a sick day plan. Your child might need to take more or less anti-seizure medication on days when they are sick.

Rev. 5/2020. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.