Conditions We Treat

Afebrile Seizures and Epilepsy

What are afebrile seizures?
Another name for seizure is convulsion. Afebrile seizure is a seizure without fever. During a afebrile seizure, a child may become unconscious and fall, the eyes roll backward, the body stiffens, and the arms and legs jerk. Most seizures last less than 5 minutes. Afebrile seizure occur in 1 out of every 250 children. If afebrile seizures become recurrent, the child is said to have epilepsy.

What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness.

Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic test for epilepsy.

What causes epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity - from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development - can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors.

What should I do when my child has a seizure?
1. Leave your child on the floor or ground.
During a seizure your child should be left on the floor or ground. Move him only if he is in a dangerous place.
2. Protect your child's airway.
If your child has anything in the mouth, clear it with a finger to prevent choking. Place your child on the side or abdomen (face down) to help drain secretions. If the child vomits, help clear the mouth. Use a suction bulb if available. If your child's breathing becomes noisy, pull the jaw and chin forward by placing two fingers behind the corner of the jaw on each side (this will automatically bring the tongue forward).
3. Time the length of the seizure.
Although it is difficult to do, try to use a watch or the clock to measure how long the seizure lasts.

What are common mistakes in first aid for seizure?
During the seizure, don't try to restrain your child or stop the seizure movements. Once started, the seizure will run its course no matter what you do. Don't try to resuscitate your child just because breathing stops momentarily for 5 to 10 seconds. Instead, try to clear the airway. Don't try to force anything into your child's mouth. This is unnecessary and can cut the mouth, injure a tooth, cause vomiting, or result in a serious bite of your finger. Don't try to hold the tongue. Children may rarely bite the tongue during a convulsion, but they can't swallow the tongue.

What should I to do after my child’s seizure is over?
After the seizure is over, let your child sleep if he wishes. The brain is temporarily exhausted, and there is no point in trying to keep your child awake. There is no need to bring your child to an emergency room for every seizure.

When you discuss your child's treatment with your physician, ask if you should give your child an extra dose of anticonvulsant medicine right after a seizure to prevent another seizure. If your child has recently missed a dose of anticonvulsant medicine, twice the usual dose may be needed.

What is the treatment for epilepsy?
Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques. In 1997, the FDA approved the vagus nerve stimulator for use in people with seizures that are not well-controlled by medication.

What are precautions for epilepsy?
While most sports are safe, be certain your child avoids activities that would be unsafe if he suddenly had a seizure. These include activities at heights (for example, climbing a tree or rope), cycling on a highway, or swimming alone. Wind surfing, scuba diving, and hang gliding must also be avoided. Have him take showers instead of baths and only when someone else is in the house.

When should I call my child's health care provider?
Call child’s doctor IMMEDIATELY if:
1. The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
2. Your child's seizures are not in good control.
3. Another seizure occurs.
4. Your child stays confused or groggy for more than 2 hours.
5. If the seizure lasts more than 10 minutes, you probably should call an ambulance. In general, a seizure won't hurt the brain unless it continues for at least 30 minutes.