What are Reflex Anoxic Seizures?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Reflex anoxic seizures are types of seizures that are not caused by epilepsy. The three main triggers are fear, pain, and sudden exposure to hot or cold water. Children are especially susceptible to this type of seizure. In most cases, this type of seizure is short and does not cause lasting heart or brain damage.

These seizures are also called reflex anoxic spells, and are syncope in origin. This means the seizures occur when blood and oxygen supplies are cut off from the brain. An abrupt extreme stimulus, such as pain or fear, causes the heart to drastically slow down or stop completely for a short period. This is what leads to syncope and the occurrence of the seizure episodes.

There are three main triggers for reflex anoxic seizures. Fear is one trigger, especially when it occurs unexpectedly. A sudden jolt of pain is the second trigger. It is also possible for a person with to have seizures from water that is too hot or cold, and the quick temperature changes cause shock to the nerves and various body responses.

Due to the types of triggers that occur, reflex anoxic seizures in children are more common. Infants and children between the ages of six months and two years are susceptible because they are still experiencing cause and effects of their actions. Away from their comfort zone many things can be frightening to young children, and toddling around is likely to lead to many bumps and bruises.


Unless serious medical conditions are already present, doctors do not usually have a treatment plan for this condition. Reflex anoxic seizures do not usually lead to heart or brain damage. The seizures have a short duration of a few seconds and should not last longer than 15 to 20 seconds.

If a child or adult experiences these seizures, there are a few things to remember. A person should not be lifted up immediately following an attack. Recovery from an attack occurs within minutes, but the sufferer will be sleepy and have a slightly pale skin color until they have completely recovered.

As the child grows and becomes more aware of the world, the number of reflex anoxic seizures that occur will decrease. Although rare, some cases of this condition do not stop after the age of two. The seizures continued into the teenage years and adulthood, particularly if the sufferer develops a phobia or anxiety disorder.


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