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First fit

What is a fit?

Watching your child have a fit can be a very frightening experience. You may even think that your child is dying. However fits are not as serious as they look.

A fit is a disturbance of electrical activity in the brain that causes messages to become mixed up. There are different sorts of fits (sometimes called seizures or convulsions). Often children become unconscious and are not able to respond to you. They may fall and there can be jerking (shaking) of the limbs.

Has my child got epilepsy?

A single fit does not mean your child has epilepsy, this may be the only fit that your child ever has. If your child has more fits they may require further investigation or treatment. Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent fits. Because your child has had a fit, they will be referred to a specialist who will assess whether any tests are going to be helpful.

What should I do if my child has another fit?

  • Note the time, how long did it last?
  • Move objects away from your child that may cause injury
  • Put something soft under their head
  • Turn them onto their side as soon as possible
  • Stay with your child
  • Video it on your phone if at all possible – it is very helpful for the doctor to see the fit when assessing your child afterwards

Is there anything I shouldn’t do if they have another fit?

  • Panic
  • Move your child unless they are in danger
  • Restrict their movements
  • Place anything in their mouth
  • Give them anything to eat or drink until they are fully recovered

When do I need to call an ambulance (999)?

Call an ambulance if:
  • The fit continues for more than a few minutes
  • One fit follows another
  • Your child is injured or you are concerned about their breathing
  • You believe they need medical attention

Is there anything I should do if my child has another fit and I don’t call an ambulance to take them to hospital?

If you have not called for an ambulance because the seizure is short-lived, they have not been injured and have completely recovered from it, please inform your GP or nurse specialist (if you have one) of the fit.

It can be helpful to keep a diary of when your child had a fit, how long it lasted for and what they were doing before the fit started. Please take this diary along with any video footage you may have of the fit to subsequent hospital appointments.

What should I tell other people?

It is a good idea to let other people (who may be looking after your child) know that your child has had a fit. For example family, friends, your child’s school or playgroup, nursery or childminder.

Share the information in this page with anyone who is going to look after your child so they know what to do and what not to do in case your child has another fit while in their care.

Is there anything I should stop my child from doing?

It is important to let your child take part in all their normal activities and sports. However, they need to take extra care for some activities:

  • Don’t let your child lock the door of the bathroom when bathing
  • Get them to avoid deep baths – showers are safer than baths
  • Don’t let them go swimming on their own
  • Avoid heights where possible (up ladders, close to the edge of a cliff and so on)

This list is not exhaustive but gives suggestions of some of the things to think about.

For more information you could contact

Your GP, school nurse, health visitor or other health professional.

Useful telephone numbers and websites:

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: ED45

Resource Type: Article

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