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New-Onset Seizure in Children


What is a new-onset seizure?

A seizure means an area in your child's brain sends a burst of electrical activity. A seizure may start in one part of the brain, or both sides may be affected. The seizure may last a few seconds or longer than 5 minutes. A new-onset seizure is a seizure that happens for the first time. Your child has a higher risk for another seizure within the next 2 years.

What causes a seizure?

The cause of your child's seizure may not be known. A seizure may be caused by any of the following:

  • Epilepsy
  • A head injury or a brain tumor
  • Certain medicines, such as general anesthetics
  • A stroke
  • Exposure to toxins
  • A fever or infection
  • An electrolyte imbalance or low blood sugar
  • Birth defects that affect the brain or nervous system

What are the signs and symptoms of a seizure?

Your child may have symptoms before the seizure starts. This is called an aura. Examples include dizziness, anxiety, or flashing bright lights. He or she may have symptoms of one type of a seizure or a combination of different types:

  • A generalized seizure may affect both sides of the brain. After a generalized seizure, your child may have a headache or feel irritable. The following are different types of generalized seizures:
    • A tonic, clonic, or tonic-clonic seizure usually involves the whole body. A clonic seizure involves jerking body movements. A tonic seizure involves stiffening of the body. A tonic-clonic seizure is a combination of clonic and tonic seizures. It is also called a grand mal seizure. Your child may lose consciousness. Your child's eyes may roll up and back into his or her head. He or she may also sweat all over his or her body.
    • A myoclonic seizure involves a sudden jerk of all or part of the body.
    • An atonic seizure is usually brief and causes a sudden loss of posture. Your child may fall suddenly to the ground.
    • An absence seizure is also known as a petit mal seizure. Your child will not be aware of his or her surroundings. He or she may stare blankly into space. Your child will not pay attention to anything happening around him or her. Your child's eyes may flutter or blink repeatedly, and he or she may smack his or her lips. Your child may have several absence seizures throughout a day.
    • An atypical absence seizure looks like an absence seizure, but with repetitive behaviors. Examples include eye opening and closing, eyes rolling outward or inward, and body stiffening.
  • A partial seizure may affect one part of the brain. The symptoms may depend on where in the brain the abnormal activity is happening. It may be simple or complex. A simple partial seizure may not cause your child to be less awake or alert. A complex partial seizure may cause your child to be less awake or alert. Both types may cause jerky muscle movements, confusion, hallucinations, sweating, or repetitive behaviors.

How is a seizure diagnosed?

Tell your child's healthcare provider what happened during his or her seizure. Include how long it lasted, and how he or she acted after it was done. Also tell the provider about any family history of seizures and any recent illness or trauma your child has had. The provider will examine your child and check his or her neuro signs. Neuro signs show healthcare providers how well your child's brain is working. If the neuro checks are abnormal, he or she may need more tests.

How is a seizure treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your child's seizure. Medicine may be given to control or prevent a seizure. Medicine may also be given to treat the cause of a seizure, such as antibiotics for an infection.

What can I do to help my child manage or prevent a seizure?

  • Talk to your child about the seizure. Your child may be frightened or confused after a seizure. Depending on your child's age, it might be helpful to explain the seizure. If your child has epilepsy, help your child understand how epilepsy will affect him or her. Help your child learn safety precautions to take. Ask your child about any auras he or she had before the seizure. Help him or her learn to recognize an aura and get to a safe place before the seizure starts.
  • Help your child manage stress. Stress can trigger a seizure. Exercise can help your child reduce stress. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about exercise that is safe for your child. Illness can be a form of stress. Offer your child a variety of healthy foods and plenty of liquids during an illness.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. A lack of sleep can trigger a seizure. Try to have your child go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Keep your child's bedroom quiet and dark. Talk to your child's healthcare provider if he or she is having trouble sleeping.
  • Ask what safety precautions your child should take. Talk with your adolescent's healthcare provider about driving. Your adolescent may not be able to drive until he or she is seizure-free for a period of time. You will need to check the law where your adolescent lives. Also talk to your child's healthcare provider about swimming and bathing. Your child may drown or develop life-threatening heart or lung damage if a seizure happens in water.
  • Tell your child's friends, family members, and coworkers that he or she had a seizure. Give them written instructions to follow if your child has another seizure.

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

  • Your child's seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • Your child has a second seizure within 24 hours of the first.
  • Your child stops breathing, turns blue, or you cannot feel his or her pulse.
  • Your child cannot be woken after the seizure.
  • Your child has more than 1 seizure before he or she is fully awake or aware.
  • Your child has a seizure in the water, such as a swimming pool or hot tub.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child does not act normally after a seizure.
  • Your child is very weak and tired, has a stiff neck, or cannot stop vomiting.
  • Your child is injured during a seizure.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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.