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Seizure First Aid for Children

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By: Susan Matesanz, MD & Marissa Di Giovine, MD, FAAP

About 1 out of 10 people may have a seizure during his or her lifetime. 

If you saw your child―or any child― having a seizure would you know how to help?

Seizures can be alarming. They are caused by surges in the brain's electrical activity and can cause a child to fall down and shake or twitch violently. Or, a child may suddenly become unresponsive during a trance-like staring spell.

While this all sounds scary, the American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to remember that seizures in children usually are not medical emergencies; the majority of seizures in children will end on their own within five minutes. 

Seizure First Aid for Children - HealthyChildren.orgHere are some first aid reminders should your child or a child in your care ever have a seizure:

  • Stay calm and provide first aid help to prevent the child from being injured during the seizure.

  • Know when to call 911 for a child's seizure.

  • Follow up with your child's doctor after the seizure.

Steps to take if a child is having a seizure: 

  • If you aren't sure if a child is having a seizure, give him a light touch and loudly call his name to try and get his attention.

  • Stay with the child―do not leave her alone!

  • Lower the child to the ground and turn him on his side. This will prevent him from choking if he vomits.

  • Make sure there are no sharp or hard objects nearby. Do NOT try to restrain or hold a child still during the seizure.

  • Do NOT place anything in a child's mouth―like a rag or a sock. Many children clench their teeth during a seizure; you could get bit or injure the child.

  • Look at the clock. Try to time how long the seizure lasts.

When should I call 911 for a child's seizure? 

  • If this is your child's first seizure 

  • If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes

  • If your child is having back-to-back seizures and not returning to normal in between

  • If your child is not waking up after the seizure

  • If your child was injured during the seizure

  • If your child has any trouble breathing

  • If your child's seizure happens in the water

  • If your child has diabetes or other life-threatening medical conditions

Follow up with your child's doctor after any type of seizure.

Children should always be seen by their doctor to determine what caused the seizure—high fever, for example, or other medical problems or neurological conditions such as epilepsy. Your doctor can help you treat any underlying causes identified, and can help create a "seizure action plan" in case your child ever has any more seizures.

Additional Information:

About Dr. Matesanz:

SSusan Matesanz_MDusan Matesanz, MD, is a pediatric neurologist currently in her final year of residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Next year, she will be completing a fellowship in neuromuscular medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neurology.

About Dr. Giovine:

MMarissa Di Giovine MDarissa Di Giovine, MD, FAAP, is a Pediatric Neurologist who subspecializes in epilepsy.  She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and is an active member of the Pediatric Regional Epilepsy Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.   She is also proud to be a founding member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Mentorship, and an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, especially within the Section on Early Career Physicians and Section on Neurology.

Last Updated
Section on Neurology (Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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