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First Aid & Emergencies

Babysitting: Dealing With Seizures

Although seizures can be frightening, many last only a few minutes and stop on their own.

Seizures can take many forms. Some kids might have “staring spells” where they stare for a period of time, don’t speak, and don’t seem to hear anything. Other kinds of seizures involve uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs. Seizures with fever are more common in young children and are usually mild and last a short time.

Possible signs of a seizure:

  • unusual twitching
  • uncontrollable muscle spasm
  • loss of consciousness
  • uncontrollable urination (peeing) or bowel movement

What to Do

If a child has a seizure with repeated movements of the arms and legs:

  • Gently place the child on the floor or ground, and remove any nearby objects.
  • Do not hold the child’s arms or legs to stop the shaking — this will not stop the seizure and may make the child more uncomfortable.
  • Do not put anything in the child’s mouth. (The child will not swallow his or her tongue, and forcing teeth apart could cause injuries.)
  • Roll the child on his or her side. If a child vomits, keep the child on his or her side.
  • Do not give the child anything to drink.
  • Let the child sleep after the seizure.
  • Call the child’s doctor and parents.

Call 911 if the child:

  • has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or is having repeated seizures
  • has difficulty breathing
  • has a bluish color on the lips, tongue, or face
  • remains unconscious for more than a few minutes after the seizure

If kids take anti-seizure medicine, making sure they take it on time can help prevent seizures.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013