Altered Level of Consciousness (Child)

Level of consciousness (LOC) is a measure of a person’s ability to interact with other people and to react to the surroundings. Altered level of consciousness is a medical emergency. A child with an altered level of consciousness may be irritable for a number of hours. The child cannot be calmed by holding, rocking, or feeding. Some children may be hyperactive and can’t sleep. Others may be very sleepy and difficult to wake. Affected children may appear limp, with poor muscle tone. They may not respond to touch or voices. Their look may be vacant or blank. They may not make eye contact. Their cry may be weak and feeble. Some children may not move for a long time or show little interest in moving. They may be confused. They may lose or have temporarily lost consciousness.

There are many causes of altered consciousness. They include low blood sugar, infection, poison ingestion, medicines, injuries, or other medical problems  

The healthcare provider will do tests to help find the cause. These may include blood tests and imaging tests. The child is first treated so breathing, circulation, and heart rate are stable. An intravenous (IV) line may be put into a vein in the arm or hand to give medicines. Once the cause of altered LOC is found, the goal is to treat the cause.

In almost all cases, the child will be admitted to the hospital to be monitored and treated.

Home care

When your child is released from the hospital, you will be given guidelines for caring for him or her. In general:

  • Follow the healthcare provider's instructions for giving any prescribed medicines to your child.

  • Stay with your child or have another responsible adult look after him or her. 

  • Watch your child carefully for any return of symptoms or changes in behavior.

  • If your child has diabetes, make sure that any approved medicines are given on time and as prescribed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call the child's healthcare provider right away for any of the following:

  • Symptoms of altered LOC return

  • New symptoms appear

© 2000-2021 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