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Seizures, Explained

Your feverish baby stiffens, twitches, and rolls his eyes. You're frightened it's an epileptic seizure.

That's unlikely. It's probably a harmless febrile seizure (but inform your doctor anyway). Nearly 1 in 10 kids has one, usually between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. They're triggered by a high fever (101°F or higher), and most last less than 30 seconds (though some may go on for three minutes). To prevent them, bring down any high fever.

Febrile seizures aren't a sign of epilepsy. Symptoms of the condition -- loss of consciousness and body jerking and twitching -- occur without being provoked by a fever. Even if a seizure disorder is diagnosed, it's manageable; more than 20 antiseizure drugs are now available.

"New medications target specific areas of the brain, which means better treatment with fewer side effects," says Steven Wolf, M.D., director of pediatric epilepsy at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Better diagnostic techniques also help pinpoint different types of seizures, so it's easier to prescribe the right medication. November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month; for more info on the disorder, contact the Epilepsy Foundation (www.efa.org).

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