Unfortunately, it is not always easy to recognize a seizure. Not all seizures include convulsions or unusual muscle movements. The child may seem to be just daydreaming or not paying attention. The seizure may not even last a minute. Afterward, the child's brain will return to normal. But over time, if the child keeps having them, untreated seizures can be dangerous and get in the way of a child's growth and education.

Recognizing seizures in babies and infants is especially difficult, because they cannot tell you how they feel or what they remember. Click here for more information on epilepsy and infants.

Parents, teachers and other adults who care for children should know what the signs of epilepsy are. It's important to remember that many of these signs are normal childhood behavior. However, if they happen often and seem unusual, it's worth mentioning to a doctor. Often, even if a child is having seizures, it may not be epilepsy. High fevers and certain illnesses can also cause seizures, so it's important to make sure you and your doctor take the time to diagnose it correctly.

  • Short attention blackouts, dazed behavior, memory gaps, mumbling or no response
  • Sudden falls, frequent stumbling or unusual clumsiness
  • Repeated, unusual movements such as head nodding or rapid blinking
  • Sudden stomach pain followed by confusion and sleepiness
  • Unusual sleepiness and irritability when woken up
  • Frequent complaints that things look, sound, taste, smell or feel "funny"
  • Sudden, repeated fear or anger
  • Clusters of (repeated) "jackknife" movements by babies who are sitting down
  • Clusters of grabbing movements with both arms in babies lying on their backs

If you notice any of the above signs happening often, make sure to tell your doctor. If your child is in school, you should ask the teachers if they've noticed any of the same behaviors. You may want to suggest that teachers and other school personnel take our Seizure Training for School Personnel.

Some of the things that it will be helpful to tell the doctor are:

  • How often the behavior happens
  • If your child will answer or respond to you when it's happening
  • If your child knows or remembers what's going on during and after the behavior

If your doctor says it's nothing to worry about, that's probably correct. However, if you're still concerned, trust your feelings. Get a second opinion, if possible from a neurologist — a specialist who treats epilepsy.

Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Wednesday, March 19, 2014