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What Is a Febrile Seizure?

What Is a Febrile Seizure?

Last Reviewed : 12/30/2020
What Is a Febrile Seizure?

  • Febrile seizures are convulsions a child can have during a very high fever that’s usually over 102.2 to 104°F (39 to 40°C) or higher. 

  • Febrile seizures usually don't cause lasting issues. Child will usually go back to normal activities soon after the seizure ends without further complications.

  • Children with recurrent febrile seizures have an increased chance of having epilepsy later in their lives.

Febrile seizures usually occur in young children who are between the ages of 3 months to 3 years. They’re convulsions a child can have during a very high fever and especially when fever happens rapidly. The rapid change in temperature is more of a factor than how high the fever gets for triggering a seizure.

There are two types of febrile seizures: Simple and complex.

Simple febrile seizures are more common. Symptoms are, loss of consciousness, twitching limbs or convulsions, confusion or tiredness after the seizure, no arm or leg weakness. Most last less than 2 minutes, but can last as long as 15 minutes. Simple febrile seizures only happen once in a 24-hour period.

Complex febrile seizures last longer. Symptoms of complex febrile seizure include temporary weakness usually in one arm or leg along with loss of consciousness and twitching limbs or convulsions. They may last for more than 15 minutes. Multiple seizures may happen over a 30-minute period. They may happen more than once during a 24-hour time frame as well.

Causes of Febrile Seizure

Febrile seizures generally happen when your child has an illness, but many times they occur before you may realize your child is sick. That’s because they usually take place on the first day of an illness. There are several different causes for febrile seizures,

  • A fever that occurs after immunizations, especially the MMR ( measles, mumps, rubella)  can cause febrile seizures. 
  • A fever that’s the result of a virus or a bacterial infection can cause febrile seizures. 
  • Risk factors, such as having family members who have had febrile seizures, will put a child at a higher risk for having them.

Treating Febrile Seizures

Febrile seizures often don’t cause any lasting issues, there are important steps to take when your child has one. 

While your child is having a febrile seizure:

  • roll them onto their side
  • don’t put anything in their mouth
  • don’t restrict the movement of the convulsions or twitching
  • remove or move any objects that might harm them during the convulsions (furniture, sharp items, etc.)
  • time the seizure

Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or your child isn’t breathing.

After the febrile seizure ends, see a  medical professional.  Give medication to lower their fever, like ibuprofen (Advil) if they’re over 6 months old or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Wipe their skin with a washcloth or sponge and room temperature water to cool them down.

Hospitalization is only required if your child has a more serious infection that needs to be treated. The majority of children don’t need any medication for a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures are normally nothing to worry about, your child will usually go back to normal activities soon after the seizure ends without further complications.

Children with recurrent febrile seizures have an increased chance of having epilepsy later in their lives. Treatment of recurrent febrile seizures includes all of the above plus taking a dose of diazepam (Valium) gel that’s administered rectally.

 

Source: National institue of neurological disorders and stroke, Center for disease control and prevention. 

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