September 7, 2021

Seizures as the Main Presenting Manifestation of Acute SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Children

Abstract, originally published in Seizure.

Objectives: To explore the rate, characteristics, risk factors, and prognosis of children presenting with seizures as the main symptom of acute COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).

Methods: We conducted a systematic retrospective study to identify all children who presented to the emergency departments of a tertiary academic medical center between March 1st and December 31st 2020 and had a SARS-CoV-2 infection based on RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) from nasopharyngeal swab. Clinical and demographic data were extracted from the electronic medical records and reviewed.

Results: Total of 175 children were diagnosed with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the emergency departments during the study period. Of those, 11 presented with seizures. Age ranged from six months to 17 years and 4 were girls. Five presented with status epilepticus and responded to loading doses of anti-seizure medications. Six had fever. Seven had prior history of neurological disorder. Full recovery was the rule.

Significance: Unlike in adults, seizures occur early and may be the main manifestation of acute COVID-19 in children. Seizures, including status epilepticus, may occur without fever even in children with no history of epilepsy and are not associated with severe disease. A high index of suspicion is required for early diagnosis thus infection control measures can be taken.

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