Managing seizures to keep your child safe

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This Epilepsy Awareness month, our nursing team advise on what a seizure is and some strategies to help keep your child safe and minimise the risks associated with seizures.

What is a seizure?

Seizures are caused by a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. The electrical activity is caused by complex chemical changes that occur in nerve cells. These cells either excite or inhibit other brain cells from sending messages. There is usually a balance between the cells that excite and the cells that inhibit or stop these messages from being sent. When a seizure occurs, there may be too much or too little which causes an imbalance. This leads to surges of electrical activity that cause seizures.

What should I do?

Seizures will mostly run their own course but there are things that you can do to help your child when they are having a seizure to reduce the risk of injury and other seizure-related risks. For children who experience seizures, the risk level depends on the types of seizures that they have and the circumstances in which each they occur. Taking positive action to manage seizures will help to reduce the related risks.

What to do when your child is having a seizure (and they are not in a wheelchair)

  • Stay calm and remain with the person
  • If your child has food or fluid in their mouth roll them onto their side immediately and assist the contents to drain out of the mouth
  • Place something soft like a pillow under their head
  • Loosen any tight clothing that may restrict their breathing
  • Reassure your child that they are ok and that they are safe
  • Time the seizure if you can
  • Gently roll them onto their side once the jerking movements stop

What to do when your child is in a wheelchair (stroller or car seat) and has a seizure

  • Leave your child seated, if they are wearing safety straps leave these on unless they are causing injury
  • Put the wheelchair breaks on
  • Stay calm and close to them
  • Reassure your child that they are ok and that they are safe
  • If your child is in a tilt wheelchair, tilt the seat and lock it into position
  • Support their head gently until the seizure ends
  • Lean your child slightly to one side to help drain any fluid in the mouth
  • After the seizure, if your child is having trouble breathing or they need to sleep they can be taken out of their chair and placed in the recovery position

Creating a Seizure Management Plan

A Seizure Management Plan (SMP) should be put in place to help minimise the impact of seizures when you are not with your child, for example when your child is at school. SMP’s are normally developed with you by doctors or nursing staff and are designed based on your child’s specific needs.  The SMP will help others to know what to do when your child has a seizure. A SMP should include the following detailed information:

  • Emergency contacts
  • Medical and seizure history
  • Supervision needs
  • Instruction on medication (if required)
  • Seizure management and first aid

When to call for help

It’s important to know when to call for help and your health support team will advise on the specific circumstances for your child. However, it is generally advised that you, or the person caring for your child, call triple zero if any of the following occur:

  • The seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes or for longer than is usual for your child
  • A second seizure follows quickly after the first
  • Your child is not responding for more than five minutes after the seizure ends
  • Your child has breathing difficulties after the jerking movements stop
  • It is the first time your child has had a seizure
  • Your child is injured as a result of the seizure

Our nursing team can advise on seizure management for your child as each child’s needs will be different and strategies for keeping them safe will be individual to each child. This article provides a generalist guide for parents and carers.