There are many kinds of seizures. Most happen randomly, with no obvious pattern. However, there are certain things that seem to trigger or cause a seizure in some children. If you know what these triggers are, you can watch to see if they affect your child.

  • Fever — some children have a seizure when their temperature rises quickly, usually to 102 degrees or higher. These are called febrile or fever-caused seizures and in most cases do not lead to epilepsy. They affect children between the ages of 3 months and 6 years and are most common in toddlers. About one-third of children who have a febrile seizure will have another one, but most children outgrow them. Only about 3 percent of children with febrile seizures develop epilepsy.
  • Missed medication — not taking medication as prescribed (as often and in the amount recommended by your doctor)— is the most common cause of an unexpected seizure for children with epilepsy.
  • Lights — while it's not as common as many people believe, flashing or flickering lights caused by sunlight, strobes, video games or computer screens can cause seizures in some people with epilepsy. This is known as photosensitivity. Polarized sunglasses, not sitting too close to a screen and taking frequent breaks away from the screen can help. More information on photosensitivity.
  • Brain disorders — children who have certain brain conditions, such as tuberous sclerosis, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism and neurofibromatosis may be more likely to have seizures. The underlying brain disturbance may be giving rise to the seizures or make the child more likely to have recurring seizures. 
  • Lifestyle/habits — certain behaviors seem to lead to seizures for some people with epilepsy. Not getting enough sleep and drug or alcohol abuse are just two examples.
  • Hormone change — some girls find that their seizures become more frequent when they go through puberty or at certain points in their menstrual cycle. 
  • Foods — some people find that certain foods cause them to have seizures. While there is little evidence of such connections, it is best to avoid any foods that seem to increase your child's chances of having a seizure. Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet, if strictly followed, can help control seizures for some children.
  • Other possible seizure triggers can include bold, high-contrast patterns such as a zebra's stripes, stress or anxiety, and certain mental processes such as reading or math.

Learn more about seizure triggers 

Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014