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A convulsion or a fit is a sudden spasm of the muscles, possibly repeated several times, caused by a burst of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy, one of the causes of fits is rare in babies and infants.

There is no need to be frightened, when a young child has a fit. Epilepsy doesn’t affect intelligence or physical performance – Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein- both were epileptics and Jonty Rhodes the ace South African cricketer is also one!!!


  1. Birth injury
  2. Lack of oxygen to the brain
  3. Severe head injury
  4. Hypoglycemia (low levels of sugar in the blood)
  5. Fever
  6. Narrowing of the blood vessels
  7. Bacterial meningitis and encephalitis
  8. Brain tumor
  9. Genetic causes

Common types: Observing a convulsion carefully is of paramount importance as in most cases only a detailed history gives your doctor clue to reach a diagnosis.

  1. Tonic-clonic seizures:
  • Stages: A convulsion classically has 4 stages but sometimes is over so quickly that it’s not easy for the onlooker to remember exactly what happened
  • First stage: is before the spasms begin and consists of an aura: the child feels frightened or has a headache.
  • Second and third stage:Second and third stage: consist of the muscle spasms proper, the limbs first being held stiff and then jerking uncontrollably.
  • Fourth stage: consists of sleepiness, confusion and the child often goes to sleep

        2. Absence seizures: The child stops whatever he is doing and stares for 5-30 seconds. The eyes may roll upwards or flicker. These mostly occur in primary school age children and are like blank spells. Children may have trouble learning and paying attention in class.

       3. Complex partial seizures: The children may run in circles, look vague or not respond to other children. Some people feel very strange and can’t control their behaviour. This may last for few seconds to few minutes.

       4. Febrile convulsions : What you must DO, if a child has a convulsion:

  1. When the child starts convulsing, get him quickly on the floor, lie him on his side and simply prevent him from hurting himself. Hold him gently and do not restrain with too much force, trying to stop the convulsion as most parents try to do. This may lead to fractures or joint dislocations
  2. There is nothing else you can do so don’t panic. He won’t come to any harm: he may wet himself but he won’t die as most parents are inclined to think.
  3. Putting an object such as a spoon covered with a handkerchief between the teeth during the jerky phase may prevent him from biting his tongue or lips but is not a good practice because it is easy to break the teeth. Bitten tongues heal; broken teeth don’t.
  4. Someone should always stay with the child during the fit. Once this is over and the child soothed call the doctor.

In a baby the only sign of a convulsion may be that he stares fixedly ahead, stops breathing for a short time, or has spells of rapid breathing.

If convulsions occur repeatedly, child may be investigated with an Electro Encephalo Gram (EEG) – recording electrical activity of the brain through the scalp. Remember a normal EEG does not rule out pathology. Your doctor may ask for a CT scan. Any specific treatment given for Convulsions/ Epilepsy is generally continued for 2-3 years from the last convulsion and then is gradually tapered off.

For any specific query about your child please e-write to us with your child’s details. Our expert Paediatric Neurologist is Dr Vrijesh Udani – PD Hinduja National Hospital