Seizure: New with Unknown Cause (Child)

Your child has had a seizure today. A seizure happens when a burst of random, uncontrolled electrical activity occurs in the brain. A seizure can have many causes. Often it’s not possible to figure out the exact cause of a seizure from a single exam. Your child might need other tests. Having a single seizure doesn’t mean that your child will continue to have seizures. It doesn't mean that your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy. But until healthcare providers know the cause of your child’s seizure, you should assume that another seizure is possible.

Home care

Follow these tips when caring for your child at home. For this seizure:

  • Seizures often aren’t predictable. Assume that a seizure could happen when you least expect it. Until the seizures are under good control, take these steps to keep your child safe:

    • Don't leave your child alone in a bathtub. If your child is old enough, use a shower instead.

    • Don't let your child swim, bike, or climb alone. Your child should not be in any situation where they would be unsafe if a seizure were to occur. This includes being in a high place (like the top of steps) or handling sharp objects.

    • Look around to see if there are ways to reduce the risk of injury if a seizure occurs. For example, glass tables or similar objects may pose a risk to someone having a seizure.

  • If medicine was prescribed to prevent seizures, give it exactly as directed. It does not work when taken "as needed." Missing doses will raise the risk of having another seizure.

For future seizures:

  • If you know that a seizure is coming on, hold your child. Or lay your child down on a bed or on the floor with something soft under their head. The best position is on their side, not on the back. This will let any saliva or vomit drain out of the mouth and not into the lungs. Be sure there are no objects around that might cause harm when your child shakes.

  • During a seizure, the jaw often clenches tightly. Don’t try to force anything into your child’s mouth or try to hold their tongue. Don’t try to stop the jerking motions.

  • Almost all seizures stop in 30 seconds to 2 minutes. If your child is having a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes, call 911. Also, call 911 if your child turns blue or stops breathing.

  • Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe rescue medicine to be used as needed if another seizure occurs and doesn't stop on its own. Make sure you understand when and how to give your child such medicines as needed.

  • After the seizure, your child may be drowsy or confused. Don’t give them anything to eat or drink until they're fully awake. Call 911 so your child can be looked at.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider.

  • Your child may need other tests to help figure out the cause of the seizure. These tests may include blood work, brain wave tests (EEG), or brain scans (MRI or CT scan).

  • Keep a seizure calendar to record how often your child has a seizure.

  • If your child is a teen being started on anti-seizure medicine and is old enough to get pregnant, make sure that they use additional birth control. Seizure medicine can affect how well birth control pills work, and they could become pregnant.

  • Certain vitamins may be needed for females on seizure medicines.

  • Your child shouldn't have alcohol or illegal drugs.

  • To prevent seizures, it's important to have a regular sleep schedule with restful sleep of at least 6 to 8 hours. Sleep deprivation is known to trigger seizures.

  • Also take steps to prevent infection in your child. This can also trigger seizures.

If your child is old enough to drive, your state may require that a report of seizures is filed. Your child shouldn't drive until the provider says it is safe.

Take a class on first aid and CPR. A class may help you feel better prepared for other seizures your child has. You can find a class near you by going to:

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Another seizure

  • Fever causing febrile seizure

  • Abnormal grouchiness, drowsiness, or confusion

  • Headache or neck pain that gets worse

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell