Infant Seizure

What Is an Infant Seizure? Signs, Causes, and Treatment


When it comes to the health of our children, there’s no such thing as being too cautious. Infant seizures, though relatively uncommon, can be a cause for great concern. These sudden, abnormal electrical activities in the brain can result in physical symptoms and be attributed to various conditions. Understanding the signs, causes, and treatment options for infant seizures is crucial for parents and caregivers. 

As we navigate this complex subject, we’ll delve into the different types of infant seizures, how to differentiate between seizures and normal reflexes, and the various treatment options available. By the end, you’ll be better equipped to handle infant seizures and make informed decisions about your child’s health.


Short Summary

  • Understanding infant seizures is essential for recognizing and managing the condition.
  • Diagnosis of infant seizures involves EEG testing, imaging scans, and differentiating between normal reflexes and seizures.
  • Treatment options include anticonvulsant medications, hypothermia therapy, ketogenic diet & CBD oil. Early diagnosis & treatment are key to improving long-term prognosis.


Understanding Infant Seizures


A baby's brain showing the effects of a brain injury due to neonatal seizures


Infant seizures are sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can result in physical symptoms and can be attributed to a range of conditions. It is estimated that around 1-5 babies out of every 1,000 experience a seizure. This demonstrates a very low occurrence rate of the condition in newborns. Babies with neonatal seizures have different potential outcomes. This depends on the type of seizure and the reason for its occurrence. Some seizures may be mild and short-lived, not resulting in long-term health issues. Seizures, if not managed properly and on time, can cause severe damage to the brain. High levels of activity in brain cells can reduce oxygen flow, leading to permanent damage.

The neonatal brain is prone to seizures due to an imbalance of neuronal excitation over inhibition, which is caused by several factors, including the developmental state of the neonatal neuron. Identifying the signs of infant seizures is crucial for timely intervention and treatment.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss how to recognize these signs and the different types of seizures that may occur.


Identifying Signs of Infant Seizures


A baby having an infant seizure with a doctor monitoring the seizure activity


The signs of infant seizures vary depending on the type of seizure but may include jerking movements, stiffening, or loss of consciousness. There are different types of infant seizures: subtle, clonic, tonic, myoclonic, and febrile.

It’s essential to recognize these signs to seek appropriate medical help and minimize potential complications. Let’s delve deeper into the different types of seizures and their specific signs.


Subtle Seizures


Subtle seizures are a common occurrence in newborns and can be difficult to differentiate from normal movements. Full-term infants are more likely to experience subtle seizures. These seizures are challenging to detect because they resemble regular, everyday movements, making it harder for parents and caregivers to identify them as seizures.

The difficulty in identifying subtle seizures emphasizes the importance of being vigilant about any unusual movements or behaviors in your baby. If you suspect your baby might be experiencing subtle seizures, it’s crucial to consult your child’s pediatrician for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.


Tonic and Clonic Seizures


Tonic and clonic seizures involve muscular stiffness and jerking movements, respectively. Tonic seizures are characterized by muscle rigidity, whereas clonic seizures involve recurrent, involuntary muscle contractions. These types of seizures can be more evident than subtle seizures, as they typically present with more noticeable physical symptoms.

When recognizing and responding to tonic and clonic seizures, it’s crucial to remain calm, ensure your baby’s safety, and seek immediate medical attention. Accurate and timely diagnosis and intervention can significantly impact your baby’s long-term health and well-being.


Causes of Infant Seizures


A baby's brain showing the effects of excessive brain cell activity


There are several potential causes of infant seizures, including head injury, fever, hydrocephalus, and underlying health conditions. In some cases, seizures can be attributed to benign familial neonatal seizures, a rare genetic disorder. Hydrocephalus, a condition where cerebrospinal fluid exerts pressure on the brain, can also lead to seizures and may result from head trauma or arise spontaneously during gestation.

Understanding the underlying cause of infant seizures is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, seizures may be the first indication of an underlying health condition, such as startle disease (hyperekplexia), apnea, jitteriness, infantile spasms, clonus, or tremors. Identifying the cause is the first step toward effective management and intervention.


Differentiating Seizures from Normal Reflexes


In some instances, healthy reflexes can be mistaken for seizures. The Moro reflex and the tonic neck reflex are two examples of normal reflexes that can sometimes be misconstrued as seizures. The Moro reflex is a healthy reflex in which a baby throws their head back and suddenly stiffens and extends their arms.

The tonic neck reflex, on the other hand, can also be confused with a seizure. It’s essential for parents and caregivers to familiarize themselves with these normal reflexes to avoid unnecessary panic or confusion.

If you’re ever unsure whether your baby’s movements are normal reflexes or seizures, don’t hesitate to consult your child’s pediatrician for guidance and reassurance.


Diagnosing Infant Seizures


Diagnosis of infant seizures typically involves electroencephalography (EEG) testing, which assesses electrical activity in the brain. A physician administers an EEG test to infants. For this, the doctor places several metal discs on their scalp. These discs help in detecting and recording the baby’s brain electrical impulses. If EEG readings are normal, imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may be necessary to determine if any structural changes or obstructions are causing seizures.

Prompt and accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management and treatment of infant seizures. Working closely with pediatric neurologists and other healthcare professionals is essential to ensure your baby receives the best care possible.


Treatment Options for Infant Seizures


Various treatment options are available for infant seizures, including anticonvulsant medications and hypothermia therapy. The choice of treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the seizures.

In this section, we will explore these treatment options in more detail.




An image of a bottle of medication used to treat infant seizure


Anticonvulsant medications are the most prevalent form of treatment for infant seizures. Phenobarbital, lorazepam, and phenytoin are common medications prescribed to control seizures in newborns. In selected settings, levetiracetam and lidocaine may be utilized as alternative medications. If there is an impediment to administering first-line agents, short-acting benzodiazepines like midazolam may be considered.

In addition to medications, alternative treatments like the ketogenic diet and cannabidiol (CBD) oil have shown promise in controlling seizures. The ketogenic diet is a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that causes the body to produce ketones, which can help control seizures. CBD oil, derived from the cannabis plant, has been reported to be effective for some children with seizures, with fewer side effects than other seizure medications.


Hypothermia Therapy


Hypothermia therapy is another treatment option for neonatal seizures, particularly when seizures result from oxygen deprivation. This therapy involves cooling the infant’s brain and body by a few degrees immediately post-birth for a period of several hours or days. Hypothermia therapy can lessen the intensity of seizures and improve long-term outcomes.

The choice of treatment, whether it be medications or hypothermia therapy, should be based on the underlying cause and severity of the seizures. It’s essential to work closely with your child’s healthcare team to determine the best course of action and monitor progress.


Managing Seizures at Home


A baby being monitored at home for seizure activity


Parents should learn how to manage seizures at home and be prepared to seek medical help if necessary. Ensuring your baby’s safety during a seizure is of utmost importance. Familiarize yourself with the necessary steps to manage seizures at home, such as staying calm, providing a safe environment, and monitoring your child’s condition.

In addition to knowing how to manage seizures at home, it’s essential to recognize when to contact emergency medical services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Epilepsy Foundation provide comprehensive guidance on when to contact 911 during a seizure. Being well-informed and prepared is crucial for the safety and well-being of your child.


Long-Term Prognosis and Complications


Prolonged seizures can lead to brain damage and other complications, so prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential. The long-term prognosis for infants with seizures is contingent upon the underlying cause and severity of the seizures. Possible complications include developmental delays, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues.

Furthermore, approximately 50% of infants who have neonatal seizures will progress to epilepsy later in life. To ensure the best possible long-term outcomes for your child, it’s crucial to work closely with your child’s healthcare team, monitor their progress, and follow recommended treatment plans.

Early intervention and appropriate treatment can significantly impact your child’s long-term health and well-being.


Support and Resources for Parents


A doctor and a parent discussing the risks and resources for managing infant seizures


Support and resources are available for parents of children with infant seizures, including information about diagnosis, treatment, and long-term prognosis. Several non-profit organizations offer support and resources, such as the Epilepsy Foundation, FACES, and Josh Provides. These organizations provide educational materials, advocacy services, support groups, and financial assistance.

As a parent, it’s essential to educate yourself and seek support from others who understand the challenges of managing infant seizures. Connecting with healthcare professionals, support groups, and fellow parents can provide invaluable guidance and reassurance as you navigate this journey.




In conclusion, infant seizures can be a frightening and challenging experience for parents and caregivers. By understanding the signs, causes, and treatment options, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and manage these events. Remember that early intervention and appropriate treatment are essential in minimizing potential complications and ensuring the best possible long-term outcomes for your child.

As a parent, it’s crucial to educate yourself, seek support, and work closely with your child’s healthcare team. With knowledge, preparation, and the right resources, you can provide the best care for your child and help them navigate the challenges of infant seizures. Your love, support, and resilience will make a world of difference in your child’s life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Infant seizures can manifest in a variety of physical symptoms, including stiffening and jerking of limbs, rolling of the eyes, random or roving eye movements, eyelid blinking or fluttering, sucking, smacking, chewing, and protruding tongue, unusual bicycling or pedalling movements of the legs, and thrashing or struggling movements.

These can be seen in both febrile seizures, caused by fever, as well as other forms of seizures.

It is important to look for signs that your infant may be having a seizure, such as stiffening of the body, staring, tremors, convulsions, or jerking movements in the arms and legs. In some cases, you may also observe the baby’s arms coming up with a slight head nod and their eyes rolling up.

If these signs persist, seek medical attention.

Infant seizures are a manifestation of an abnormal neurological event in which neurons in the infant’s brain fire abnormally and uncontrollably. Common signs include loss of consciousness, eye rolling, muscle twitching, stiffening, and body jerking.

Seizures can be caused by many factors including genetics, infection, and trauma.

Signs of seizures in newborns can vary, but they may include subtle signs such as upward eye deviation or brief stiffness in the baby’s back, as well as more pronounced signs such as their arms coming up with a slight head nod and their eyes rolling up.

Seizures in infants may also manifest as generalized convulsions, although this is less common.

Seizures are not common among newborns, with approximately 100 per 100,000 infants affected. However, early detection is still important as seizures can be a sign of an underlying condition.

Additionally, it can be difficult to recognize seizures in infants due to their small size and lack of expression. As such, it is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of seizures in order to ensure prompt treatment and care.

    100% Secure & Confidential