Kids Health Info

Seizures - safety issues and how to help

  • It can be scary to see a child having a seizure (also called a fit) and it is very helpful to know what to do, how to help and when to call an ambulance. Adults looking after a child who has a seizure disorder also need to know what to do to make sure the child is safe.

    If you are present when someone is having a seizure you should follow the simple step by step instructions below.

    Major seizures:

    Major seizures are convulsive seizures with stiffening and/or jerking movements of the limbs. These seizures are often called 'convulsive seizures', 'tonic-clonic seizures', or a 'fit'.

    1. Stay calm.
    2. Check for medical identification.
    3. Protect the child from injury by moving harmful objects away from them.
    4. Time the seizure using a watch.
    5. Loosen anything that is tight around their neck.
    6. pub something soft under their head.
    7. Stay with the child and give reassurance.
    8. Do not put anything in their mouth.
    9. Do not try to restrain them, i.e. do not try to stop them from jerking.
    10. When the seizure is over, roll the child onto their side.
    11. Consider if an ambulance needs to be called.
    12. Try to give them some privacy and keep other people away.

    Minor seizures:

    Children may have seizures where they 'go blank' and stare for a few seconds or minutes. Sometimes they stay fully conscious during a seizure and can describe what happened or how they felt. Sometimes they may simply seem confused or have unusual behaviour. These seizures may also be called 'absence seizures' or 'local seizures'.

    1. Stay calm.
    2. Check for medical identification.
    3. Gently guide the child away from harm or remove harmful objects close to them.
    4. Time the seizure using a watch.
    5. Stay with the child and give reassurance.
    6. Try to give them some privacy and keep other people away.
    7. If a convulsive seizure develops, follow the major seizure management steps.

    If the seizure happens in a wheelchair, car seat or stroller:

    • Leave the child seated if they are secure and safely strapped in.
    • Gently hold their head.
    • When the jerking stops, if they are unconscious, take them out of the seat, lay them down and roll them onto their side.

    When to call an ambulance

    It is not necessary to call an ambulance every time a seizure occurs in a child who has epilepsy. Most people who have epilepsy will recover from their seizure without any problems after a few minutes.

    You should call an ambulance if:

    • you think it is the child's first seizure
    • the seizure lasts more than five minutes
    • another seizure quickly follows the first one 
    • the child remains unconscious or has trouble breathing after the seizure
    • the seizure happens in water
    • the child is hurt or injured
    • the child has diabetes
    • the child does not seem to fully recover
    • you are about to give medications to stop the seizure, for example diazepam or midazolam.

    General safety after a seizure

    After the first seizure, the biggest risk of having another seizure is within the next three months. Your child's doctor will give you advice on any activities your child should not do and for how long. 

    There are some general safety recommendations to keep in mind when there is a chance your child may have another seizure:

    • Develop an action plan with your child's doctor. This plan will provide simple, easy instructions on what to do if a seizure happens. See the Epilepsy Management Plans page of the Epilepsy Foundation website.
    • Consider getting your child to wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace.
    • Always make sure your child swims with an adult companion, or that there is an observer nearby watching them closely. This person needs to be able to swim well. Don't let your child swim alone.
    • Get your child to have showers instead of baths.
    • Always turn on the cold tap before the hot tap and lower the temperature of the hot water service at home.
    • Take special care when using hot water or things that can cause burns (e.g. irons, kettles, stoves, barbecues, campfires).
    • Make sure adults or older children who look after your child know what to do if your child has another seizure.
    • Activities involving heights are best avoided unless appropriate support is provided.
    • Make sure your home and car have up-to-date first aid kits.

    Key points to remember

    • If a seizure lasts more than five minutes, or you think it is the child's first seizure, call 000 for an ambulance.
    • Adults looking after a child who has a seizure disorder also need to know what to do to make sure the child is safe.
    • Move things away so they do not hurt themselves and put something soft under their head.
    • After a first seizure, the biggest risk of having another seizure is in the next three months.

    For more information

     

    Produced in consultation with the RCH Emergency Department and RCH Neuroscience Centre.  First uploaded March 2006. Updated December 2010.


Kids Health Info app

The app will enable you to search and browse more than three hundred medical fact sheets and work offline.


Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.