The Symptoms of Convulsions

Spasmodic twitching of the muscles; unconsciousness: other symptoms too familiar to require description.

This is a very common disease in infancy. It is very likely to occur during teething either when cutting the first or the second teeth. As a general rule, it is due to indigestion, especially to accumulation of gas in the bowels. It may often be caused by taking cold. When it occurs periodically, several days in succession, being followed by fever, it is due to ague, during which the convulsion takes the place of the chill. The convulsion in infants represents the chill in older people. Convulsions are very frequent in measles, scarlet fever, whooping-cough, and other diseases of childhood. When one convulsion follows another in rapid succession, some serious nervous disease is indicated, as dropsy of the brain. Convulsions occurring during the course of disease are more serious than if they occur at the beginning. They are most likely to occur in children having what is termed a nervous temperament. They are also frequent in rickety children. They are likely to occur in prostrating diseases, and are sometimes produced by an inactive state of the liver.

In what is termed "inward fits," the child lies as if asleep, only moving the eyelids, the muscles of the face twitching, and the countenance wearing what is termed "a sardonic smile." Inward fits are generally produced by flatulence, or gas in the bowels. When the hands and feet twitch, and the child lies with its eyes half closed, waking with a sudden start and the face flushed, it is threatened with general convulsions. A convulsion may last for a minute or two, or for one or two hours, at the end of which the child often falls asleep, lies in a stupor, or cries loudly, or slowly returns to consciousness. Sometimes the stupor becomes more intense, and death occurs. This is very rare, except in the convulsions which occur in whooping-cough and meningitis.

The Treatment of Convulsions

Plunge the child as quickly as possible into a hot bath, pouring cool water upon the head and chest. When the convulsion is the result of indigestion, the child should be made to vomit, if possible, by drinking cold water or half a glass of cold water into which a teaspoonful of mustard or powdered alum has been stirred. When constipation and flatulence are the cause, give an enema of soap-suds. When the fontanel is prominent or bulging, the cold applications to the head should be very vigorous; ice may be used. When there is considerable fever, cool sponging of the person should be employed, together with cold injections into the bowels. When the fontanel is depressed, showing lack of blood in the brain, the convulsions may sometimes be relieved by inverting the child, that is, turning its head downward. This is often recommended indiscriminately for convulsions, which is a grave error, as it might produce a fatal result in convulsions produced by congestion. "Inward fits" are relieved by fomentations to the bowels, or giving the child a few teaspoonfuls of water containing a drop or two of peppermint essence.