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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Symptoms of Epilepsy and Seizures in Children

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of seizure a child has. For example, if your child has tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures, symptoms will often be more obvious and dramatic than if your child has absence (petit mal) seizures. Symptoms also vary at different stages of a seizure.

All seizures do not look or feel the same.

While it is important to understand that all seizures do not look or feel the same, there are some common warning signs that may indicate that your child is having a seizure. Not all of these symptoms will be present during your child’s seizure, however you may observe:

  • Change in alertness or awareness that may be accompanied by head nodding or other abnormal movement
  • Changes in behavior, mood and personality
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Falling suddenly without apparent cause
  • Having difficulty breathing, abnormal breathing, blue lips or stopping breathing
  • Jerking limbs, convulsions, or spastic, uncontrolled movement
  • Muscle spasms
  • Passing out, fainting or losing consciousness
  • Rapid blinking that may or may not occur with blank staring
  • Staring blankly or “spacing out”
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Unresponsiveness to sounds or talking
  • Unusual sensations and altered sensory perception

Similar Symptoms, Different Diagnoses

Effective treatment starts with a definitive diagnosis. At the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, we also treat conditions that have symptoms similar to epilepsy, such as Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS), tuberous sclerosis, tics and fainting spells.