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Fits (child): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

 Definition
The term 'fits' encompasses several problems, it includes epilepsy, febrile fits, five day fits and turns caused by, for example, temper tantrums.

Diagnosis
The commonest types of fits are febrile fits. These occur in around 3% of normal children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years. They are caused by a rise in the child's temperature during an infection such as a cold or chickenpox. The child may appear reasonably well, then suddenly loses consciousness, the eyes roll up and the child either remains floppy or begins to jerk all the limbs. The fits usually last a few minutes only, commonly not more than 10 minutes and the child recovers spontaneously. The fits look very alarming and parents frequently say they thought their child had died after witnessing the first fit. These fits are harmless in themselves and the child would be fine even if no adult was present during a fit. Normally a child is admitted to hospital following the first febrile fit to find what the infection is. If none can easily be recognised or if the child is young, less than 1 year old, they may have a lumber puncture, fluid taken from the spine, to rule out meningitis. Treatment is aimed at cooling the child down with medicine and maybe by a fan or tepid sponging. If further fits occur with the same illness they normally happen within 24 hours of the first fit. Many children have only one fit, others may have a fit each time their temperature goes up.

Treatment
No specific treatment is used to prevent fits apart from keeping the child cool, but in the uncommon cases when the fits are long,an anticonvulsant, valium, can be put into the back passage by the parents to try to stop the fit. These fits will disappear by 5 to 6 years of age and it is unlikely that the child will suffer any consequences of the fits or go on to develop epilepsy.

Young babies may have fits for many reasons. It could be from an infection, from changes in their blood salt, sugar or calcium or they may be related to problems during pregnancy or at birth. Any fit in a young baby must be taken seriously and the cause found if possible, this may mean hospital admission at least initially. Having said that, some families have babies who have 5 day fits, i.e. fit at 5 days of age for no known reason and with no subsequent problems.

Outcome
As children hit the terrible two's and even worse three's, they may acquire the skill of temper tantrums. These may be prolonged screaming and dramatic falls to the floor or they may include breath holding. The child may become blue in the face and then eventually breathe or may actually have a fit. This can occur quite rapidly with a child flying into a temper, uttering a cry or two and then having a fit. These are alarming to see but completely harmless as, as soon as the child enters the fit he starts breathing again. Treatment is by trying to distract the child before the temper tantrum, easier said than done. All children grow out of fitting with tantrums; not all grow out of the temper.