Understanding Febrile Seizures and What Parents Can Do


A Boy in Pain From a Fever

Febrile seizures are seizures that are induced by a fever and a serious concern among parents. They occur in about 2% to 5% of all children and are more likely to occur where there is a family history of the condition. These seizures happen because of a response in the brain and usually take place on the first day of a fever.

This article provides information on what parents should know about febrile seizures and what they can do to help a child who is suffering from one.

When Febrile Seizures Are Most Common

It is most common for children to have febrile seizures between the ages of three months and six years. When a child experiences one before the age of one, it is very common to have one or more later in childhood as well. Most children who experience these seizures at a young age do not continue to experience them after the age of five.

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Symptoms of Febrile Seizures

A febrile seizure may come unexpectedly and without warning. In some cases, the fever itself does not create symptoms in a child, and the seizure is actually the first visible sign that a child is sick. A viral infection is the most common cause of a fever that triggers a febrile seizure.

A child who has a febrile seizure typically has a fever of more than 100.4 degrees and may shake the arms and legs or lose consciousness. Simple febrile seizures can last a few seconds or a few minutes, are generalized throughout the body, and do not recur on the same day. However, complex febrile seizures can last for more than 15 minutes, occur repeatedly in a day, and create jerking motions primarily on one side of the body.

Length of Febrile Seizures

It is common for a febrile seizure to last up to five minutes, but anything longer could indicate a more serious problem. Parents are advised to call 911 or take the child to an emergency room if a seizure lasts for more than five minutes. It is also recommended to go to an ER if the seizure is accompanied by breathing problems, vomiting, or stiffness in the neck.

What Parents Can Do About Febrile Seizures

Children who have experienced febrile seizures often do not require medication for daily treatment. Most of these seizures are medically harmless and do not indicate an ongoing or underlying medical issue.

But unfortunately, these types of seizures cannot be prevented through means used to treat fevers in general. However, giving a lukewarm bath or administering fever-reducing medications like PediaCare, may still help to keep a feverish child more comfortable. If a child has many repeated episodes of febrile seizures, a doctor may recommend prescription seizure medications to reduce the risk of future seizures.

During a seizure period, parents should place the child on the floor to prevent falling and lay the child on his or her side to prevent choking. Meanwhile, parents should keep an eye out for breathing problems or unusual discolorations of the skin. Even if the seizure is very short, it is a smart idea to call a pediatrician to have the child examined and properly diagnosed. Blood, urine, and spinal tap tests may be conducted to determine the cause of the fever and the infection that led to it.

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