Your frequent questions answered by the experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital
Q: I sometimes find my daughter staring into space. When I looked up "staring spells" online, I found information on "absence seizures." Is it possible that my child is having seizures? A: Most kids who stare off into space are not experiencing seizures. If you can't interrupt these spells by gently touching her, however, it could be a possible sign of an absence seizure. To be on the safe side, consider a visit to her primary care physician who will be able to give a more specific diagnosis based on your daughter's medical history or refer you to a specialist for diagnosis. Absence seizures are brief (usually less than 15 seconds) disturbances in brain function due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A person may also stop walking or talking mid-sentence, and is usually wide awake and thinking clearly immediately after the seizure. Absence seizures occur most commonly in people under age 20, usually in children ages 4 to 12. They can occur rarely or up to hundreds of times a day and may occur for weeks to months before they are noticed. Many children end up outgrowing these seizures by the time they reach adulthood. In the meantime, doctors may prescribe anti-seizure medications. They may also restrict driving and other potentially dangerous activities such as swimming or bathing unsupervised. If your daughter is diagnosed with absence seizures, you and your doctor should develop a seizure plan and share it with your daughter's school. -Dr. Charlotte Jones is an attending pediatric neurologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.