Hesperian Health Guides

Seizures, Convulsions

Seizures are sudden, usually brief, periods of unconsciousness or changes in mental state, often with jerking movements.

Seizures may be caused by high fever, meningitis, dehydration, an injury, malaria, poisoning, or other reasons. If none of these dangerous causes of seizure seem likely, a single seizure may not be a problem (although it can be very frightening to watch).

When seizures recur, this is often from epilepsy, a chronic condition that can be controlled with medicines. See a health worker.


During a seizure, clear the space around the person so she does not hurt herself. Turn her on her side so she does not choke if she vomits. Do not hold a seizing person down or try to hold her tongue. Get medical help.

For seizure from dehydration: After the seizure is over, give rehydration fluids.

For a seizure from meningitis: the child will need a combination of specific antibiotics immediately. Start giving these on the way to get help.

For seizure from malaria: Treat the malaria as soon as possible with the malaria medicines used in your region, usually artesunate. Seizures and convulsions can be a sign of severe malaria, which can cause death if not treated quickly.

If the seizure lasts more than 15 minutes, put liquid diazepam in the anus using a syringe without a needle. Do not give more than the recommended dose and do not give more than 2 doses.

The spasms caused by tetanus can be mistaken for seizures. The jaw shuts tightly (lockjaw) and the body suddenly bends back. Learn to recognize early signs of tetanus.

After a seizure, the person may be confused or drowsy.
Comfort her.

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This page was updated:17 Sep 2020