Wise up to the signs of childhood seizures and find out what steps to take if your child has one.


When Alison Ng’s son, Kevin, 3, had a fever, Ng didn’t think much of this common childhood condition. “We actually went to see the doctor in the evening and I’d also given him the medication as directed.”

The 38-year-old sales manager certainly didn’t expect that her son’s fever would cause him to experience a seizure later at night.

“Thankfully, I decided to sleep with him for the night to keep an eye on his condition. I remember I was awakened by his legs jerking repeatedly against my knees.”

Frightened by her child’s sudden fit, she shouted for her mother to come over and keep an eye on him while she called for an ambulance.

At the hospital, Ng was told by the doctors that her son had suffered a febrile seizure, which usually occurs when they have a fever of 38.5 deg C and above.

Such convulsions usually cause the child’s arms and legs to jerk involuntarily, their eyes to roll upwards and their jaws to clench. It can last for a few minutes to as much as 15 minutes, according to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Such convulsions usually cause the child’s arms and legs to jerk involuntarily, their eyes to roll upwards and their jaws to clench. It can last for a few minutes to as much as 15 minutes.

Incidentally, when your child’s body temperature drops, they are also less likely to experience another seizure. That said, a febrile seizure is just one many types of seizures your child may sustain.

Associate Professor Ong Hian Tat, head and senior consultant with the division of paediatric neurology at the National University Hospital, says that other forms of repeated seizures are a symptom of epilepsy, often caused by an underlying brain disorder.

He notes, “Epilepsy could result following an infection of the brain, lack of blood flow to the brain and injury sustained during traumatic events such as road accidents or falling from heights.”

The chronic condition can also be hereditary, caused by a mutation in the genes controlling the functions of nerve cells in the brain. Prof Ong highlights the symptoms of other types of seizures:



* Grand mal convulsion This is one of the most common and scary form of seizures that parents witness, Prof Ong notes. “The child’s body and all four limbs stiffen with a loss of consciousness and repetitive jerking [movement] of their body.”

* Absence seizures Your child may appear to be staring into space with a brief loss of awareness. This may or may not be accompanied by twitching of the eye or the muscles around the mouth — including lip smacking movements, lasting for about 10 to 20 seconds. While your child may look like he is day dreaming, calling his name or tapping him will not rouse him from the seizure.

* Myoclonic seizures Sudden repetitive jerking movements of the arms, neck and torso.

* Atonic seizure Sudden loss of muscle strength in maintaining the body in an upright posture, resulting in an epileptic fall.

* Generalised tonic seizure A sudden stiffening of the child’s whole body or their arms and legs.

While your child may look like he is day dreaming, calling his name or tapping him during his fit will not rouse him from the seizure.

What should you do during a seizure?

When your child suffers from any form of seizure, especially a Grand mal convulsion, it is best to seek medical assistance immediately and call an ambulance, advises Prof Ong.

The KK Women’s and Children’s Epilepsy Action Plan advises you to take the following action:

* Remain calm and move your child away from danger.

* Lay them flat on the ground and slowly get them to rest on their side, while ensuring their head and neck remain straight.

* If possible, place the back of their hand under their cheek and pull the leg — holding the part above the knee — that’s resting furthest from you and move it up and across toward you, so that it bends at the knees.

* Hold them in that position until the ambulance arrives or until their seizure resolves. In the meantime, wipe away any secretions from their mouth to allow them to breathe properly.

To help your child’s physician make the right diagnosis, Prof Ong advises you to take note of the following details:

* Moment just before your tyke losses consciousness What was your child doing? Where was he? What was his behaviour and mannerisms like right before the seizure?

* Details of the seizure Pay attention to any changes to their eyes, face, mouth, body and limbs. A convulsion almost always manifests with uncontrollable twitching in these areas of the body.

* Moments after the seizure How long did the seizure last? How do they feel? Did they regain consciousness after? Were they aware of their seizure?

It’ll also be helpful to record a video of your child’s seizure on your smartphone, so that the physician can assess and analyse their seizure immediately, Prof Ong advises.

If your child has had several episodes of convulsions, they’re probably on long-term medication. Loved ones would be properly trained to manage such episodes, he adds.

Photos: iStock

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