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What are Common Causes and Signs of Seizures in Children?

Richie Irvin with a therapist in a walker

What are Common Causes and Signs of Seizures in Children?

Gillette Children’s has a comprehensive team of pediatric neurologists to help parents and guardians understand the common causes and signs of seizures in children. These Gillette specialists work with families and primary care providers to ensure children get an expert, first seizure evaluation and a treatment plan if it’s needed.

There are many common causes of seizures in children. These include fevers, low sodium levels, brain trauma and epilepsy.

What are seizures?

Constant electrical activity takes place between cells in the human brain. A seizure is an abnormal electrical discharge in brain cells that disrupts normal behavior, activity or movement.

Seizures can be mild, severe or somewhere in between.

Here are some signs a child is having a seizure:

  • Sudden change in alertness or behavior
  • Uncontrolled staring or “zoning out”
  • Repetitive, involuntary jerking movements
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Changes in breathing patterns

After a seizure, it is important for a neurologist to run tests to determine if a child has epilepsy. A child is typically diagnosed with epilepsy after two or more unprovoked seizures that are not caused by something specific. A child who only has provoked seizures won’t typically have a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Little boy riding a bike

Provoked seizures can be caused by many conditions such as low or high blood sugar, very high blood pressure, head injury or infections. Unprovoked seizures do not have a clear cause and often more evaluation needs to be done to find the cause of the seizures. At Gillette Children’s, a Level 3 Epilepsy Center, our specialists evaluate children—from infants to teens—who experience an unprovoked or prolonged seizure.

Gillette’s level 3 epilepsy center designated from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers means we provide a comprehensive team approach to the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. Level 3 Epilepsy Centers go through a vigorous vetting process to ensure individuals with seizures or epilepsy can get the specialized care they need. As a Level 3 Center, we provide care such as neurodiagnostic evaluations, as well as medical, neuropsychological, and psychosocial services, noninvasive evaluation for epilepsy surgery, straightforward respective epilepsy surgery, and implantation of the nerve stimulator.

Gillette first seizure evaluation

Gillette offers a “first seizure evaluation” that investigates if a child’s first seizure is unprovoked.  

This “first seizure evaluation” at Gillette includes a team of specially trained nurse practitioners and pediatric neurologists who specialize in epilepsy. During this appointment, the Gillette team will find out about your child’s medical history and do a physical exam.

In the evaluation you will talk with the specialist about:

  • The type, cause and risk of additional seizures
  • Seizures and what precautions will help ensure your child’s safety during a seizure
  • How to recognize and monitor seizures
  • When and how to use rescue medicines

If your child is very young or has complex medical or developmental conditions, a neurology evaluation, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG), will be done.

Depending on the evaluation and the findings, the Gillette team will work with your family to develop an individualized treatment plan to address the type and causes of your child’s seizures.

Physical therapist playing with little boy