Since seizures are accompanied by severe symptoms, they are often extremely threatening. They are not so rare in children: About four percent experience such an attack once in the course of their childhood. And you do not have to think immediately about an epileptic disorder. Most often it is a so-called occasional spasm such as the febrile convulsion and it remains at a single occurrence.
Not necessarily epilepsy
In epilepsy the seizures occur repeatedly; but it is altogether rarer: Affected are about 0.8 percent of the population. Often there is no direct cause, in part, a hereditary predisposition is the trigger. In these cases, epilepsy often occurs in childhood and adolescence. In addition, brain damage of various origins may be the cause of the disease, for example, birth defects, infections of the central nervous system, traumatic brain injury, metabolic disorders, circulatory disorders of the brain or brain tumors.
What is a seizure?
Seizures occur when the normal electrical activity of the brain is followed by another (but abnormal) activity. This usually happens suddenly and without warning. Sometimes a seizure can also be triggered by external stimuli, such as the flicker of a television or computer. The sudden electrical discharge of nerve cells in the brain causes muscle spasms, which lead to the typical picture of a seizure.
What does a typical seizure look like?
- sudden unconsciousness, the body becomes stiff, arms and legs are stretched, possibly the back muscles are also overstretched (tonic phase).
- rhythmic muscular discharges in the arms and legs, for example twitching, slackening of the extremities (clonic phase)
- Eyes twisting, pupil dilation, foam at the mouth
- Weeping in or taking a drink
- Changes in breathing (breathing pauses, wheezing respiration, bluish discoloration of the skin, caused by an oxygen deficiency)
- "Nachschlaf" or "exhaustion sleep". After that, there is usually no memory of the seizure; the child is sleepy and dizzy.
- In infants and toddlers seizures may be atypical. Then the attack is characterized by a sudden slackening of the muscles and eye-turning. The child has a fixed view and breathing pauses can occur (the lack of oxygen causes the skin to turn grayish-bluish). Or it shows short-term behavioral problems, the child is absent and unresponsive.
First aid measures
- Calm the child
- Protect it from injuries caused by uncontrolled movements, remove tight clothing.
- Do not try to restrict the twitching movements or hold the child. Here you can hurt it.
- There is a risk that the child bites his tongue. Nevertheless, do not push any objects between the teeth, as this can lead to tooth fractures.
- If there are no more cramps: Bring the child to a stable side position (children under two years in the prone position).
- Contact an ambulance
- Continue to monitor your breathing for possible breaths.
Important: After a seizure, the child should be thoroughly examined to exclude a brain disease as a cause. By detailing the duration and nature of the seizure, you can help diagnose and treat it.
What to do in febrile convulsions?
Febrile convulsions are almost always harmless. They are triggered by a sudden and rapid rise in fever, accompanied by twitching and usually last only a few minutes. Affected are infants and toddlers (up to the age of four). In about 35 percent of the children who once had a febrile convulsion, he comes back in another feverish infection. Therefore, such children are given early antipyretic means.
In case of repeated occurrence, the seizure-interrupting medication should also be in the house. By the third time at the latest, the doctor will clarify whether the seizure is the first sign of epilepsy.