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Generalized Tonic Clonic Seizures in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What are generalized tonic-clonic seizures?

A generalized tonic-clonic seizure may also be called a grand mal seizure. A seizure means an abnormal area in your child's brain sometimes sends bursts of electrical activity. A generalized seizure affects both sides of the brain. Tonic and clonic are phases that happen during the seizure. The tonic phase causes your child's muscles to become stiff. He or she loses consciousness and may fall down. The clonic phase causes convulsions (repeated muscle contractions). A seizure may last from a few seconds up to 3 minutes. It is an emergency if it lasts longer than 5 minutes.

What increases my child's risk for tonic-clonic seizures?

What are the signs and symptoms of a tonic-clonic seizure?

How are tonic-clonic seizures diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's health conditions and medicines he or she takes. Epilepsy is usually diagnosed if your child has at least 2 seizures within 24 hours. It may also be diagnosed if he or she has 1 seizure but is likely to have more. A brain scan or electroencephalogram (EEG) may also show signs of epilepsy that make another seizure likely. Tell the provider how close together the seizures were if your child had more than one. The provider will ask for a detailed description of each seizure. If you did not see the seizure happen, try to bring someone with you who did. Your child may also need any of the following:

How are tonic-clonic seizures treated?

Your child's healthcare provider may treat any health conditions causing the seizures. The goal of treatment is to try to stop the seizures completely. Your child may need any of the following:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to help my child prevent a tonic-clonic seizure?

You may not be able to prevent every seizure. The following can help you and your child manage triggers that may make a seizure start:

What can I do to help my child manage tonic-clonic seizures?

The following can help you manage the seizures if your child has more than one:

How can others keep my child safe during a seizure?

Give the following to your child's family, friends, babysitters, school officials, and coworkers:

What do I need to know about stopping my child's medicine?

Your child's healthcare provider can help you understand and make decisions about antiseizure medicines. Do not stop giving your child the medicine until his or her healthcare provider says it is okay. Your child will need to have no seizures for a period of time, such as 18 to 24 months. Then you and the provider can decide if your child should continue taking the medicine. The provider will lower your child's dose over a certain period of time. Seizures might happen again while your child stops taking the medicine, or after he or she stops. Rarely, these seizures no longer respond to medicines. Tests such as an EEG may be useful in helping you and your child's provider make medicine decisions.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.