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Convulsions (also called seizures or fits) may occur in children under 6 as a result of fever, and at any age as a result of epilepsy, some head injuries and brain disorders, poisoning, drug overdosage and other illnesses. It can be frightening to witness a seizure, but most are over within a few minutes.

Signs and symptoms

  • a strange cry preceding the attack (sometimes)
  • a sudden fall to the ground, with the person rigid and unconscious
  • uncontrolled jerking movements of body and limb muscles
  • altered breathing pattern, noisy breathing
  • frothing at the mouth (sometimes)
  • loss of bladder control (sometimes)
  • blood on lips if tongue has been bitten
  • no memory of the fit on awakening
  • temporary confusion after seizure is over, and the need to sleep

First aid treatment

  1. Stay calm, and protect the person from injury by removing dangerous nearby objects. Do not attempt to restrain the person.
  2. Place something soft under the person's head to protect it, and loosen any tight clothing.
  3. In the case of febrile convulsions, put the affected child on his or her side on the floor or a wide bed and stay nearby.
  4. As the convulsions ease, place the person in the lateral position and tilt the chin back to keep the airway clear.
  5. Give reassurance as consciousness returns, and help the person to move somewhere nearby where it will be possible to sleep.
  6. Seek urgent medical aid if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if there are further seizures. Anyone who has a seizure for the first time should consult a doctor without delay.

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