Seizure Safety :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Seizure Safety

Seizure Safety

How are seizures harmful?

We know that occasional brief seizures do not hurt the brain. However, the biggest concern with seizures is that a child will be physically injured when he has a seizure. Most children are not aware they are having a seizure and cannot protect themselves. Injury is the #1 risk with seizures. Seizures may interfere with school work and other activities. If a seizure lasts longer than 30 to 60 minutes it may cause scarring of the brain but this is very rare.

What precautions can I take to keep my child from being hurt during a seizure?

Drowning is the #1 cause of injury from seizures. Never leave your child alone in a bathtub or near ANY water. A child can drown in less than an inch of water.

Older children usually prefer to shower and can be unsupervised but they need to:

  • Remove the drain stop if they are showering in a tub.
  • Leave the bathroom door unlocked.
  • Make sure someone is in the house when they are showering.

No child or teen should ever swim unsupervised:

  • Parents should watch all young children and be within reaching distance of them in the water.
  • Older children and teens may swim with a buddy with a life guard present. The buddy should know how to recognize a seizure and be able to call for help if needed.
  • Extra caution should be taken in water that is not clear. Life preservers should be worn when swimming or boating in oceans, lakes, and ponds because you may not be able to find a child who goes under in murky water.

Other safety precautions include:

  • When children are riding bikes, skateboarding, or rollerblading, they should always wear a protective helmet.
  • Children should avoid heights. They should not play on high playground equipment or climb trees, and they should not sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed.
  • Water heaters should be set to no more than 120 degrees F. to prevent a burn.
  • Older children should not cook using the stovetop without an adult watching.

If a child’s seizures are not well controlled and are occurring on a daily or weekly basis, greater precautions may be necessary such as not allowing any water activities and bike riding. Some children who have frequent seizures resulting in falls and frequent injuries may benefit from wearing a protective helmet during any physical activity. Talk to your child’s neurology provider about what precautions they recommend for your child.

What do I do if my child has a seizure?

Try not to panic! Seizures are very scary but you need to stay calm. It is your job to protect your child during the seizure to keep them from being hurt.

As soon as you know your child is starting to have a seizure:

  • Gently try to get them into a position where they are safe. If they are standing or sitting, get them to the floor or a soft surface where you can lay them on their side.
  • Stay with your child. Use a watch or clock to time the seizure. Observe your child’s behavior and movements.
  • Do not put anything in your child’s mouth. They cannot swallow their tongue and often they clench their teeth together. If you try to put something in their mouth you are likely to hurt them or yourself.
  • Do not try to stop or restrain their movements.
  • Children often foam at the mouth or drool during a seizure. If they are turned on their side, this will run out of their mouth rather than pooling in the back of their throat.

Some children do not have convulsing types of seizures, but may just stare or act unusual. If your child has this type of seizure, you just need to stay with them and keep them safe. You may not need to have them lie down on their side. Refer to the Helping HandTM Seizure Care for more details.

What do I do when the seizure is over?

After a seizure, especially a convulsion, children often are very confused and tired. Sometimes they fall into a deep sleep and sleep for several hours. It is okay to let them sleep. Check on your child frequently until he returns to his normal self. Unless told otherwise, call your neurology provider the next business day and tell them about your child’s seizures. Your child may need his medication adjusted.

When do I need to call for help?

Call 911 if:

  • Your child’s seizure lasts more than five (5) minutes.
  • Several seizures occur in a short period of time without the child recovering in between the seizures.
  • Your child was hurt during the seizure.
  • Your child will not respond in any way to you 30 minutes after the seizure.
  • Your child is having trouble breathing.
  • Or if you are concerned something is wrong.

Most seizures last less than two (2) minutes. If a seizure is continuing after five (5) minutes it may not stop on its own. Most children do not have any serious problems with breathing during a seizure. Often children will be pale or blue around the mouth during a seizure. This is common during a seizure and not a sign of a problem. During a seizure the brain is working hard and needs plenty of oxygen. The human body naturally takes some oxygen away from the area around the mouth to send to the brain causing the blue look around the mouth. This does not mean your child is not getting enough oxygen to the brain.

Can I stop a seizure?

Most seizures last less than two (2) minutes. If a seizure lasts longer than five (5) minutes then you need help to stop the seizure. The only way to stop a seizure is with medicine. There is nothing else you can do to stop a seizure. You cannot stop the seizure by holding or talking to your child.

During a seizure your child cannot take medicine by mouth. It must be given through an intravenous line (IV) or in the rectum or nose where it will be absorbed through the mucous membranes. Common rescue medications used to stop seizures are diazepam (Valium®), lorazepam (Ativan®), and midazolam (Versed®). Sometimes when a child has seizures that last longer than a few minutes, we give parents one of these rescue medications to have at home. When a child has a long seizure at home, parents can give a rescue medication through the rectum or nose to stop a seizure. This can prevent extra 911 calls and visits to the emergency room. All of these medicines will make your child more sleepy than usual after a seizure.

If your child has a seizure that lasts longer than five (5) minutes, call 911. The emergency squad may be able to give one of these medicines or they will take your child to a hospital where the staff will be able to give the medicine.

Can my child die from epilepsy?

Most children who have epilepsy will live a very full and long life. However, very rarely a child may die from an injury or drowning during a seizure, a very long seizure (60 minutes or longer), or from Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). SUDEP is not well understood but we do know some factors increase the risk for SUDEP. People who have convulsive type seizures, have uncontrolled seizures, are on multiple seizure medications, stop medications suddenly, don’t take their medications regularly, or have developmental disorders, are at greatest risk for SUDEP.

The best way to keep your child safe from injuries and SUDEP is to use seizure precautions, make sure your child takes his medication regularly, and work closely with your neurology provider to control your child’s seizures as well as possible.

Nationwide Children's Hospital
700 Children's Drive Columbus, Ohio 43205 614.722.2000