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Infant seizures – how to manage fact sheet

How to manage infant seizures

What are seizures?

Seizures (or fits) are often described as a disruption in normal brain function. There are several different types of seizures, ranging from convulsive seizures – where there is general muscle jerking and/or stiffening – to seizures which involve periods of child unresponsiveness or them losing awareness.

Will a seizure harm my baby?

Most babies recover from a seizure without any harm. Rarely, a prolonged seizure (30 minutes or more) may cause problems.

Seeing your baby have a seizure can be a very distressing experience for parents/carers, but you must try to remain calm.

It is also important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. For more information on how to manage a seizure when it occurs, see the “first aid at home” section below.

Seizures may occur once, a few times, or in “clusters” – whereby seizures occur frequently, then stop and start again within a short period of time.

How are infant seizures treated?

The first step to treating infant seizures is to identify and treat the underlying cause. Sometimes, your baby’s doctor will prescribe anti-seizure medications to prevent further seizures from occurring, or they may order some tests to find out the cause.

Admission to hospital

After admission, our staff will show you to your baby’s room in the inpatient unit. Your nurse will explain the unit facilities available to you. A bed for one parent is available, if you wish to stay with your baby overnight.

Your admitting nurse will apply an identification armband to your baby, which needs to remain on them throughout your admission, for security and safety reasons.

Your nurse will ask about your baby’s medical/surgical history and any particular needs your baby may have while they are in hospital. It is important for you to provide detailed and accurate information so that your healthcare team can properly plan your baby’s treatment.

Care of your baby in hospital

When your baby is admitted to hospital, their doctor may order these tests and treatments to find out the cause of the seizures. These may include:

  • Blood tests.
  • X-rays or an MRI of your baby’s brain.
  • Cardiac monitoring, whereby small wires are attached to the chest to record heart and breathing rhythms and how much oxygen is in the blood.
  • An electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the electrical activity in the brain by placing small wires on your baby’s scalp. This test does not hurt your baby and helps collect important data about the seizures.
  • Intravenous medications, including anti-seizure drugs and antibiotics given via an IV (drip).

Nursing staff will monitor your baby closely each day and record any seizures that occur. If your baby has a seizure, the nurse will stay with your baby, provide them with oxygen if necessary and contact the treating doctor for further instructions.

If the nurse is out of the room at the time of a seizure, please call for the nurse so they can attend to your baby promptly.

Please speak to your baby’s doctor or nursing staff if you have any questions, at any time, about your baby’s condition.

Transition to home

Your child will be ready for discharge from hospital when:

  • All discharge expectations are met (see below).
  • Your baby’s seizures have stopped, or a Seizure Management Plan is in place.
  • Your baby’s doctor has spoken to you about going home and when this is appropriate.
  • Follow-up appointments have been made with the neurology medical team and/or the paediatric medical team, as required.

Discharge expectations

Prior to discharge, for babies who were otherwise well before the onset of seizures, your medical staff would expect that:

  • Your baby’s neurological status is stable.
  • Your baby’s observations are within normal limits for their age and condition.
  • Your baby is eating and/or drinking adequate amounts and able to take oral medications.
  • Your baby’s seizure activity is controlled.
  • You understand discharge and follow-up plans, how to care for your baby in the event of a seizure and when to seek medical assistance.

First aid at home

If your baby has a seizure, try your best to do the following:

  • Remain calm.
  • Stay with your baby.
  • Time the seizure.
  • Protect your baby’s airway by loosening tight neckwear.
  • Roll your baby onto their side to prevent them breathing in vomit or saliva.
  • Protect your baby from harm.
  • Reassure your baby until they recover (reorientate – talk to your baby and comfort them).
  • Phone 000 if the seizure lasts for more than five minutes or if your baby stops breathing and/or turns blue.
  • Do not put anything in your baby’s mouth.
  • Do not restrain your baby.

Seek medical advice if:

  • Your baby is having ongoing seizures.
  • You notice any deterioration in your baby’s condition.
  • You are at all concerned that something may be wrong with your baby.

For a medical review of your child, including concerns relating to your child’s recent admission at the Queensland Children’s Hospital, please present at the QCH Emergency, your local GP, or your local hospital.

Seek urgent medical assistance if:

  • Your baby stops breathing.
  • Your baby has a seizure which lasts for more than five minutes – phone 000.

Contact us

General Paediatrics and babies (9a and 9b)
Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)

In an emergency, always contact 000 for immediate assistance.

Resource No: FS234. Developed by the Division of Medicine, Queensland Children’s Hospital. Updated: May 2017. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.