Health A-Z

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During an absence seizure, a child is temporarily unaware of what is happening around him or her. For a few brief seconds, the child stops what he or she is doing. He or she stares straight ahead and does not respond to people speaking.

During a seizure, a child's eyelids may blink or flicker very quickly. Or an arm or a leg may twitch, jerk or move for no obvious reason.

After the seizure ends, the child has no memory of the episode. He or she usually resumes previous activities as if nothing happened. There usually is no confusion or recovery period after an absence seizure.

A child with absence epilepsy can have many brief seizures during a school day. As a result, the disorder may interfere seriously with their ability to pay attention and participate in class. For this reason, a teacher may be the first adult to notice that something is wrong. If the teacher is not familiar with absence seizures, he or she may complain that the child is not paying attention or appears to be daydreaming.

Outside the classroom, the child's symptoms may affect the ability to concentrate when he or she plays sports or does homework. Seizures also may interrupt conversations with friends or family members.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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