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Your child's first seizure

Patient information A-Z

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a disturbance of electrical activity in the brain that causes messages to become mixed up. There are different sorts of seizures (sometimes called “fits” or “convulsions”). Often children become unconscious and are not able to respond to you. They may fall and there can be jerking of the limbs.

Watching your child have a seizure is a very frightening experience. You may even think that your child is dying, however try to remember that seizures are not as serious as they look.

Is it epilepsy?

A single seizure does not mean your child has epilepsy – this may be the only seizure that your child ever has. If your child has more seizures they may require further investigation and/ or treatment.

What should you do if your child has another seizure where they are unconscious and jerking?

Do assess the situation:

  • Note the time – how long did it last?
  • Move objects that may cause injury
  • Put something soft under their head
  • Turn on side as soon as possible
  • Stay with your child

Do not:

  • Panic
  • Move your child unless in danger
  • Restrict movements
  • Place anything in their mouth
  • Give anything by mouth until fully recovered

Call an ambulance (999) if:

  • You are frightened or need help
  • The seizure continues for more than five minutes
  • If one seizure follows another
  • If the child is injured or you are concerned about their breathing
  • You believe they need medical attention

If you have not called for an ambulance because the seizure is short lived, you will need to inform your GP or a health professional.

What should you tell other people?

It is a good idea to let other people know that your child has had a “first seizure”. These could be family, friends, your child’s school/ playgroup, nursery or childminder. It can also be useful to share the first aid information described above with them.

Will my child be safe?

It is important to let your child take part in all their normal activities. However, you need to take extra care when thinking about bathing, swimming, cycling and cooking.

Further information:

If you would like more information please see your GP, school nurse, health visitor or other health professional.

Useful telephone numbers and web sites:

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151