It is vital that you know how to recognize the indications that an infant is experiencing a seizure. This is important so that you will know when an episode is occurring and what should be done.
Newborns and young children face a high risk for experiencing seizures at some point. An episode occurs if the brain cells have an erratic electrical activity that briefly disrupts the normal electrical signals of the brain. When it comes to seizures among infants, the indications are subtler than adults.
What are the indications of seizures in infants?
- Febrile – the infant might roll his/her eyes while the limbs might turn rigid or twitch and jerk. This is usually triggered by high fever, usually over 102 degrees F.
- Focal – the infant might sweat, turn pale, vomit and have spasms or stiffness in one muscle group such as the legs, fingers or arms. There is also gagging, screaming, lip smacking, crying and loss of consciousness.
- Infantile spasms – this a rare form of seizure that manifests during the first year of an infant. The child might bend forward or arch the back as the arms and legs turn rigid. These spasms usually occur if the child is about to wake up or go to sleep or even after feeding.
- Atonic (drop attack) – the child has sudden loss of muscle tone that makes him/her turn limp and unresponsive. The head might drop abruptly or fall to the floor while crawling or walking.
- Absence (petit mal) – the infant seems to stare into space or daydreaming. There is rapid blinking or appears to be chewing. The episodes usually last less than 30 seconds and can occur several times throughout the day.
- Myoclonic – the muscle groups usually in the shoulders, neck or upper arms starts to jerk. The episodes occur in clusters at several times throughout the day and several days in a row.
- Tonic – regions of the body such as the legs or arms or the whole body abruptly turns rigid.
What should I do?
A doctor should be consulted if an infant is experiencing a seizure. If possible, take note of the following:
- How long the seizure lasts
- Time the seizure started and if it spreads to other parts of the body
- Appearance of the movement (stiffening, staring and jerking)
- Activity of the child before an episode occurs
Even though it can be frightening to observe a child during an episode, it is vital to ensure that he/she is protected from injuries. You have to move away hard objects and roll the child onto her side to prevent choking in case of vomiting.
Do not attempt to slap the child or place anything in his/her mouth. Call for emergency assistance if the child has difficulty breathing, turns bluish, has an episode that lasts more than 5 minutes or unresponsive for 30 minutes after an episode ends.
If a child is susceptible to seizures, the doctor might request a diagnostic test such as electroencephalogram (ECG) which traces the electrical waves of the brain. In some cases, a brain-imaging test such as MRI is carried out to determine the cause.