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Babysitting: Dealing With Seizures

Although seizures can be frightening, many last only a few minutes and stop on their own.

Seizures can take many forms. Some kids might have "staring spells" where they stare for a period of time, don't speak, and don't seem to hear anything. Other kinds of seizures involve uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs. Seizures with fever are more common in young children and are usually mild and last a short time.

Possible signs of a seizure:

  • unusual twitching
  • uncontrollable muscle spasm
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • uncontrollable urination (peeing) or bowel movement (pooping)

What to Do

If a child has a seizure with repeated movements of the arms and legs:

  • Gently place the child on the floor or ground, and remove any nearby objects.
  • Lay the child on his or her side. If a child vomits, keep the child on his or her side.
  • Loosen any clothing around the head or neck. Make sure the child’s breathing is OK.
  • Don't hold the child's arms or legs to stop the shaking — this will not stop the seizure and may make the child more uncomfortable.
  • Don't put anything in the child's mouth. (The child will not swallow his or her tongue, and forcing teeth apart could cause injuries or block the airway.)
  • Don't give the child anything to eat or drink. Don't give any medicine pills or liquid by mouth until the seizure is over and he or she is fully awake and alert.
  • Try to keep track of how long the seizure lasts.
  • It's OK to let the child sleep after the seizure.
  • Stay with the child until the seizure is over. Right afterward, call the child's doctor and parents.

Call 911 if the child:

  • has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or is having repeated seizures
  • has trouble breathing
  • has a bluish color on the lips, tongue, or face
  • remains unconscious for more than a few minutes after the seizure
  • has a seizure while in water
  • has any symptom that concerns you

If kids take anti-seizure medicine, making sure they take it on time can help prevent seizures. If the child has had seizures before and has a medicine that should be given for a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes, make sure to talk to the child’s parents about how to give the right amount of medicine to the child, in the right way. If you have to give this medicine, it’s important to still call the doctor and the child’s parents.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date Reviewed: 10-06-2016