Convulsions are also known as ‘fits’, ‘epileptic attacks’ or ‘seizures’. Essentially, they’re states of altered consciousness, which can vary in severity. It usually occurs among children of 0-8 years.
Causes of Convulsions, Convulsions happen because of sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This type of convulsion tends to run in families, and affects boys more often than girls. There’s usually a family tendency towards having convulsions except that it is hereditary.
There are several different types of convulsions, but they’re usually characterised by:
- your child’s body suddenly stiffening
your child becoming unconscious
your child jerking, and his eyes possibly rolling back in his head
your child usually sleeping deeply for an hour or so afterwards.
Most convulsions don’t last longer than several minutes.
Convulsions can be partial, affecting only one part of the body (and one part of the brain), or generalised, involving the whole body (and spreading throughout the brain).
Some convulsions (petit mal) don’t involve jerking body movements, but simply appear as an ‘absence’ from activities. Your child might stare for a few seconds, then continue with what she was doing as if nothing has happened.
The long-term treatment of general convulsions will depend on their cause and severity.
A febrile convulsion usually lasts only a few minutes, and almost always stops by itself before any treatment is given.
During the convulsion,place your child on a soft surface, lying on his side or back. Time the convulsion and watch exactly what happens, so you can describe it later. If the seizure goes on for longer than five minutes, call an ambulance or take your child to the doctor or hospital where medication can be given (intravenously or rectally) to stop the seizure.
It’s not usually necessary to hospitalise your child following a febrile seizure, unless your doctor’s concerned about the condition that caused the fever (such as pneumonia or meningitis). Generally, your child will be assessed, the underlying condition will be treated, and your child will be sent home.
There’s no guaranteed method of preventing febrile convulsions. But it’s possible to lower your child’s fever, for her comfort, by using paracetamol and taking off extra clothing. Sometimes the seizure will be the first indication of a fever. There’s no point in giving your child anticonvulsant medication whenever she develops a fever, because it takes several days to build up sufficiently high levels of the drug in the bloodstream.
If your child has recurrent febrile seizures, your doctor might rarely consider prescribing anticonvulsant medications to be taken on a continual basis for several years, to prevent the seizures from occurring. But this treatment should be started and managed only by a paediatrician or paediatric neurologist.
Prevention of non-febrile convulsions will depend on the diagnosed cause.
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