Peculiar behavior in toddlers, such as staring at a running electric fan while raising their arms, may not alarm most parents, but doctors have warned of the possibility of infantile spasms, an uncommon form of epilepsy confined to infants.
A two-year-old boy, surnamed Tsai (蔡), was recently brought to the hospital by his parents after he had been exhibiting strange behavior — such as staring at a running fan or a clock at midnight while putting up his hands and nodding his head rhythmically — for more than six months, said Chiang Kuo-liang (江國樑), a pediatrician at Kuang Tien General Hospital.
“At first the boy’s parents found their son’s peculiar behavior funny, thinking that he was merely fascinated by how fans and clocks worked. They did not take the symptoms seriously until the frequency at which their son displayed this behavior increased from five to 20 times a day,” Chiang said.
After a series of examinations, the boy was diagnosed with infantile spasms, along with autism, developmental language disorder and mental retardation, Chiang said.
Characteristic symptoms of infantile spasms include repetitive head nodding and unconscious stretching of the limbs, Chiang said, adding that this form of epilepsy is very hard to treat and occurs most often in children aged two and under.
Chiang said the disease could be caused by a variety of conditions, from brain diseases, congenital infections and hereditary metabolic disorders to brain deformity, central nervous systemic infections and head injuries.
“The seizures usually peak before and after bedtime and can be triggered by spinning objects, which explains why the boy often seemed fascinated by fans and clocks at night,” Chiang said.
Chiang added that the boy is being treated with medications, as well as speech, language and occupational therapy.
Parents should pay more attention to their children’s behavior, as infantile spasms are not as apparent as more common types of epilepsies and are easily overlooked, Chiang said.
“Parents whose children exhibit behavior similar to Tsai’s should write down the time and frequency at which their children display the symptoms, and videotape the processes to help doctors make a diagnosis,” Chiang said.