KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It can be terrifying to witness a child have a seizure, and you should seek medical attention if it happens. However, the good news is that most seizures are not medical emergencies.

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Dr. Shannon Cohen explains what happens during a seizure and what you should and should not do when one is occurring.

What happens during a seizure?

During a seizure the child will experience a sudden, temporary changes in physical movement, which are caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain. Some children may experience violent convulsions, or a stiffening of the body, others may completely relax.


Most are febrile seizures, when a seizure happens during fever. These most often affect kids under 6 years of age and don’t usually indicate any serious illness. Children usually grow out of these type seizures. In rare cases seizures can be an indicator of epilepsy.

Do’s and don’ts

  • Make sure child is in a safe place
  • Lay child on side to prevent choking
  • Watch for signs of difficulty breathing
  • Do not try to hold or restrain your child
  • Do not put anything in child’s mouth (including your finger)
  • Do not try to give fever reducing medicine
  • Do not try to put child in cool or lukewarm water to cool off

When to call 911

  • Seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
  • Seizure involved only certain parts of the body instead of the whole body
  • Your child is having trouble breathing or is changing color
  • Your child looks sluggish and is not responding normally
  • Your child doesn’t go back to normal behavior for an hour or more after the seizure
  • Your child looks dehydrated
  • Another seizure happens within 24 hours

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