Clonic Seizures in Children

April 15, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Children who experience seizures and have seizure disorders can experience a wide range of different types of seizures. These can vary according to where in the brain they originate, whether they lose awareness during the seizure, and the specific symptoms that occur while it takes place. Clonic seizures are a relatively rare type of seizure, at least when they occur by themselves.

If your child is experiencing clonic seizures, whether in isolation or along with other types of seizures, educating yourself as a caregiver is important. We’re sharing this informative guide to help you feel more engaged and empowered with the care process for this and other types of seizures.

What is a clonic seizure?

Clonic seizures describe seizures that result in repeated muscle jerking, or the rapid stiffening and relaxing of the muscles. Clonic seizures by themselves are rare and usually occur in infants and small children. An isolated clonic seizure alone can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

More commonly, clonic seizures occur as the second phase of a tonic-clonic seizure. Tonic seizures describe the sudden tension or stiffness that occurs after a seizure affects the brain. In a tonic-clonic seizure, this will then be followed by the twitching and jerking associated with the clonic phase.

Any type of seizure is caused by a disruption of the electrical impulses in the brain. With a seizure, the signals that are responsible for thought, sensation, and motor function basically become stuck or looped in the brain. The type of seizure depends on where in the brain these seizures develop.

Clonic seizures can be generalized, meaning they affect the entire brain, or they can be focal seizures that develop in one specific area. Generalized clonic seizures typically affect both sides of the body, or the entire body, while focal clonic seizures may only affect one side of the body or one area, such as the face. Additionally, clonic seizures may result in loss of awareness or consciousness, or the person may be aware throughout.

What does a clonic seizure look like?

The single most identifiable sign of a clonic seizure is repeated jerking movements. This will usually last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and can occur on both sides of the body, one side of the body, or in a single part of the body. Because isolated clonic seizures often develop in infants, it is not always possible to find out if there was a loss of awareness during the event.

More commonly, a clonic seizure is experienced as the second phase of a tonic-clonic seizure. After an intense period of stiffening, which may result in a collapse and/or loss of consciousness, the person will begin twitching and jerking repeatedly. Due to the intense nature of the seizure, and the potential for falling, many people report feeling pain and stiffness in the aftermath of a clonic or tonic-clonic seizure.

Both clonic and tonic-clonic seizures may be preceded by a small focal seizure known as an aura. This can cause changes in mood, loss of attention, and strange sensory events such as experiencing a smell that isn’t there.

Clonic Seizure Causes

The causes of seizures and seizure disorders such as epilepsy are still not fully understood by medical researchers. There is believed to be a genetic component that affects certain markers in the brain that disrupt the transmission of electrical signals. This is due to the fact that seizures and seizure disorders tend to run in families.

If a clonic or tonic-clonic seizure occurs, the most important thing to do is create a safe area and prevent harm to the person. It is important not to try and restrain the movement. After the seizure, the person will usually need rest and as calm of an environment as possible.

Diagnosing Clonic Seizures

If you believe your child or anyone else is experiencing clonic seizures, you should see a doctor for diagnosis as soon as possible. Common diagnostic steps for any type of seizure include:

  • Medical history and family medical history review
  • Questions about seizure episodes, including any possible triggers
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnostic testing that can include magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG) to detect any abnormal brain activity or to rule out other causes

Clonic Seizures Treatment Options

For most causes of clonic or tonic-clonic seizures, doctors will recommend a combination of the following treatments:

  • Anti-seizure and anticonvulsant medications
  • Dietary and nutritional changes
  • Electrical stimulation therapy
  • Behavioral and mental health counseling

Caring for a Child with Clonic Seizures

Especially for infants who are suffering from clonic seizures, childcare considerations are important. Small children need a safe, supervised environment. In many situations, pediatric home health services can provide needed assistance for families adjusting to life with a seizure disorder. A qualified nurse can provide assistance with medication and nutrition, accompaniment to medical appointments, and provide physician-ordered treatments such as seizure assessment and treatment.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.