A seizure is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It may be mild or severe and cause problems, such as jerking motions of the limbs or body. It can be a symptom or a side effect of a more serious health problem.

Generalized Seizure
Generalized seizure

Abnormal and excessive electrical activity in the brain.

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Sometimes the cause is not known. Some common causes are:

  • Health problems like epilepsy
  • Injury or trauma to the head
  • Infections, such as meningitis
  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke
  • Accidental poisoning
  • Certain medical problems, such as:
    • Low blood sugar
    • Very high fever
    • Electrolyte levels that are not normal
  • Fluid buildup in the brain
  • Diseases or deformities present at birth

Risk Factors

Things that may raise a child's risk of seizure are:

  • Having had a prior seizure
  • Having a very high fever
  • Having health problems like:
    • Epilepsy
    • Brain tumors
    • Brain infections
  • Having a family history of seizures.


Problems may be:

  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Staring, or a dazed look
  • Jerking motions of the limbs or body
  • Problems breathing
  • Eyes rolling back in the head
  • Crying or moaning
  • Vomiting
  • Urinating


You will be asked about your child‘s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests may be taken. The fluid around your child's spine may also be tested. This can be done with a lumbar puncture.

Images may be taken of the child's brain. This can be done with:

The child's brain activity may be tested. This can be done with an EEG.


Some seizures will not need to be treated. For example, children will outgrow seizures caused by fever by about 5 years of age. Others will be treated based on what is causing them. Underlying problems causing seizures will need to be treated.


Anti-seizure medicine may be given. The one that is used will depend on the type of seizure the child has.


Surgery may be needed in children with severe seizures who are not helped by medicine. Nerve fibers may be separated or a section of the brain that starts the seizure may be removed. It is only an option for children who have specific parts of the brain involved. It is not done often.


There are no known ways to prevent seizures.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


HealthLink BC

Epilepsy Ontario


Febrile seizure. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 30, 2018. Accessed January 3, 2020.

Hogan T. Seizure disorders in childhood. Loyola University Medical Education Network website. Available at: Accessed January 3, 2020.

Kimia AA, Bachur RG, et al. Febrile seizures: emergency medicine perspective. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2015 Jun;27(3):292-297.

Neonatal seizures. Intensive Care Nursery Staff House Manual. UCSF Children's Hospital website. Available at: Published 2004. Accessed January 3, 2020.

Seizure in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 8, 2018. Accessed January 3, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 7/21/2020