Tonic Seizures in Children

April 18, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Seizures of any type can be alarming when they develop in children. Parents trying to learn about what is happening to their little ones have to navigate an almost overwhelming amount of terminology and classification. Types of seizures can vary according to where they originate in the brain, what types of symptoms they cause, and many other characteristics.

In the case of tonic seizures, it is describing the body’s response to disrupted brain activity in the form of increased muscle tension. To help a child or loved one deal with tonic seizures, education is key. We created this helpful guide so you can be more engaged with the overall care process and make informed decisions for your family.

What is a tonic seizure?

In general, seizures are caused by disruption of the electrical signals in the brain. These impulses are responsible for thought, sensation, and function. During a seizure, they can become stuck or looped in the brain.

Tonic seizures, or the tonic phase of a seizure, represent a change in the muscle tone from a normal state to increased tension. Isolated tonic seizures are rarer than tonic seizures that occur as part of a tonic-clonic seizure. By itself, a tonic seizure often occurs during sleep and may last no longer than 30 seconds.

More commonly, tonic seizures occur as the first phase of a tonic-clonic seizure. Tonic seizures describe the sudden tension or stiffness that occurs after a seizure affects the brain, followed by the clonic phase, which is characterized by twitching and jerking in the body.

Tonic seizures are usually classified as generalized seizures, which affect the entire brain. In other cases, they may be focal seizures, which develop in one region of the brain.

Tonic Seizures Symptoms

Tonic seizures are characterized by extreme tensing of the muscles. This can result in loss of consciousness and labored breathing as the muscles force air out of the lungs. Tonic seizures are usually short in duration and often occur during sleep.

Due to the intensity of the seizure and the potential for falling, many people report feeling pain and stiffness in the aftermath of a tonic or tonic-clonic seizure. The frequency of tonic seizures can vary according to the person. Some people may experience one at a time, or they may occur more frequently or in clusters.

Both tonic and tonic-clonic seizures may be preceded by a smaller seizure known as an aura. This can cause changes in mood, attention loss, and sensory events such as experiencing abnormal smells.

What causes tonic seizures?

Doctors still do not fully understand the causes of seizures and seizure disorders such as epilepsy. There is a possible genetic link that could affect certain areas of the brain and run in families, increasing the risk of seizures and epilepsy. Other potential contributors may be congenital defects and brain injuries. In a sizable portion of cases, an underlying cause cannot be found.

Safety is the most important consideration if a tonic or tonic-clonic seizure occurs. You should do everything possible to create a safe area and prevent harm to the person experiencing the seizure and not restrain or prevent movement. After the seizure, the person will usually benefit from rest and a calm environment.

Diagnosing Tonic Seizures

If you believe your child is experiencing tonic seizures, you should see a doctor for diagnosis as soon as possible. It is helpful to provide a detailed description or even a video of an episode to help doctors reach an accurate diagnosis.

Common diagnostic steps for any type of seizure include:

  • Review of personal and family medical history
  • Questions about seizure events and potential triggers
  • Physical evaluation
  • Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG)

Diagnostic testing helps to detect abnormal brain activity and/or rule out other causes.

Tonic Seizures Treatment Options

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

  • Anti-seizure and anticonvulsant medications
  • Dietary and nutritional changes, such as a ketogenic diet
  • Electrical stimulation therapy
  • Behavioral and mental health counseling

Caring for Children with Tonic Seizures

Childcare is important for any young person dealing with tonic seizures. Children benefit from a safe, supervised environment. Pediatric home health services often help many families receive needed adjustment and support for young people managing seizures. This assistance can come in the form of medication management, nutritional support,  accompaniment to medical and specialist appointments, and providing 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.