Patient & Family Education Materials

Start over with a New Search


What is a seizure? 

A seizure is unusual electrical activity in the brain that may change the way someone acts, feels or thinks. A seizure can look different for different people. During a seizure, the body may jerk, twitch, or stiffen. There may be a different sensation or a change in consciousness. In most cases, seizures will stop on their own within a few minutes.

After some seizures, your child may be confused and sleepy. This typically improves within 30 minutes to an hour. This is called the “post-ictal phase.”

There are different types of seizures, depending on where in the brain they start. Seizures in a single area of the brain are called focal seizures. Seizures in the whole brain are called generalized seizures. Seizures may only happen once or twice, or they may happen repeatedly. Epilepsy is the disease of recurring seizures not provoked by something else, like a fever. The word epilepsy does not imply anything about mental or physical function.

Some seizures last a long time and do not stop without medicine. Seizures that last longer than 5 minutes, or seizures that happen again and again without regaining consciousness in between are called status epilepticus. 

What are febrile seizures?

Seizures caused by fevers are called febrile seizures. The fever may have several causes, including an ear infection or a cold. Febrile seizures are very common. These seizures most often occur in children between 6 months and 6 years. Children are more likely to have febrile seizures if there is a family history or if they have had one before. About 1 in 3 kids who have had one febrile seizure will have another. Children usually outgrow febrile seizures after 5 years of age. 

Even though brief febrile seizures can be very scary, they do not cause brain damage. Children who have had a febrile seizure only have a slightly increased risk of developing epilepsy.    

What can I expect in the hospital?

An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be done to measure the electrical activity of the brain. An imaging study of the head, such as a CT or MRI, may also be done to look at the brain structure. Blood and urine tests may be needed too.

Anti-seizure medicines may be given either in the vein (IV), by mouth, or by rectum. The nurses will closely watch your child’s level of consciousness, activity, strength, coordination, temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. A monitor may be used to watch for any concerning changes. 

How can I care for my child?

If your child has epilepsy and needs anti-seizure medications, it is important to give them exactly as prescribed by the doctor. Depending on the cause, most seizures can be controlled by medicine, and your child can lead a fulfilling life. However, caution should be used for activities that may result in injury if your child has a seizure. Your child should not do activities such as: 

  • climbing onto high places 
  • swimming unattended 
  • bathing unattended

If your child has febrile seizures, you and they can do all your normal activities. Your child may go to daycare or be left with a responsible babysitter. It is best to explain to the babysitter or daycare provider what has happened and what to do if it happens again. If your child has a fever, you can treat it with acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®, if they are older than 6 months). However, constant attention to your child’s temperature will not always be helpful in preventing another febrile seizure. Sometimes a recurrent seizure is the first sign of a fever.

What should I do during a seizure?

  1. Stay calm. Stay with your child. 
  2. Lay your child on his or her side with something soft under their head. 
  3. Do not restrain your child or put anything in their mouth. 
  4. Check a clock to time the length of the seizure. 
  5. Watch for any arm, leg, or eye movement; your doctor may want to know this. You can also take a video of the seizure to help show your child’s doctor what is going on. 
  6. Watch your child’s breathing and look for any change in their color such as turning pale or blue around their mouth. 

When should I call the doctor? 

 Call your doctor if your child:  

  • Has seizures occurring more often (including if your child has febrile seizures, and has two seizures within 24 hours) 
  • Has seizures that look different than usual (including if your child has only had febrile seizures, and now has a seizure without a fever) 
  • Is refusing to take medicine 
  • Is vomiting medicine 
  • Is extremely drowsy or unsteady

Call 911 if your child has: 

  • a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes 
  • repeated seizures without regaining consciousness 
  • any color changes, such as blue or purple color, around the mouth during or after the seizure (if this is not normal for your child) 
  • not taken a breath for more than 30 seconds 

What else do I need to know?

Your child may have an aura (sensation or feeling) before a seizure or during a seizure. Sensations may include: 

  • buzzing in the ear 
  • dizziness 
  • a strong emotion 
  • lights 
  • other sensations

If a particular sensation occurs before each seizure, this can be used as an early warning to seek a safe place for protection during the seizure.

The presence of seizures does not make your child fragile. Treat and discipline your child normally. Tell the school nurse about your child’s seizures and medicine. Please talk with your child’s provider about seizure monitoring devices and medical identification bands for seizures and epilepsy.

Support groups may be available in your area. Ask your provider for their names and numbers.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. For more information, a good resource is If you have any questions, please call your child’s provider.

Reviewed 3/2024 

Back To Top

This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

© 2024 Children's Minnesota