Febrile Seizures in Children
While febrile seizures are scary, they are more common than you would think. Since any child can have a febrile seizure, the best thing you can do as a parent is to learn about them and what to do in the instance that your child does have one.
What Is a Febrile Seizure?
A febrile seizure happens to a young child when they have a sudden spike in fever. The fever actually doesn’t have to be very high. They can occur with as low as a 100.4 fever. The underlying cause is that the fever spikes suddenly. It is your child’s developing brain reacting to the sudden change in temperature.
How to Know Your Child Is Having a Febrile Seizure
- Having convulsions, or shake, all over or in certain parts of the body
- Be unresponsive or pass out
- Eyes may roll
- May make unconscious noises or moan
- May urinate on themselves during or vomit during or afterward
- Will usually last for a few minutes and stop on its own
How Common Are Febrile Seizures?
The most common time for a child to have a febrile seizure is between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Most children tend to outgrow them by the time they are 5. After your child has one, it is more common for them to have another. About 1 in 3 children will have another within a couple of years. The risk of having one is also increased if you have a family history of them.
Are Febrile Seizures Harmful?
In general, they are not harmful, although they can be scary for both the child and parents. Most children go on to have normal lives. Most recover completely from the seizure, even if it is a long one. They typically do not cause any long-term damage. Your child could possibly become injured if they fall or choke on small pieces of food in their mouth when the seizure starts. Being knowledgeable of basic first aid can help to prevent an injury.
Epilepsy is a common fear of a parent whose child has had a febrile seizure. Just because a child has one when they are young, that does not mean they will develop epilepsy at a later age. If a child has multiple or prolonged seizures, that also does not mean they will develop epilepsy, although it increases their risk slightly.
What Do You Do if Your Child Is Having a Febrile Seizure?
Stay Calm and Keep Track of Time
The biggest thing you as a parent can do is to stay calm. Remember the start time of the seizure, and keep track of how long it lasts. If it is still going on at 15 minutes or if your child has a second within 24 hours of the first, call 911. You should also call an ambulance if the seizure was less than 5 minutes, but your child does not seem to be recovering.
Keep Them on Their Side On a Protected Surface
When your child starts seizing, gently lay them down on a protected surface, such as the ground. It’s important to not hold a child as they are having the seizure. In order to prevent choking, place them on their side. If there is anything in their mouth, use your finger in the hook position to gently remove it.
Remove any objects from around them, and loosen any clothing around their face or neck. Don’t try to give your child fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, while the seizure is occurring. Also, do not put them in a cool bath to try to cool them off.
Watch your child for breathing problems. If they are turning blue or seem to have difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately.
Contact Your Pediatrician
Especially if this is your child’s first seizure, you need to contact your pediatrician as soon as possible for your child to be seen. They will do a physical examination and also try to find the cause of the fever that caused the seizure in the first place. Your doctor will also ask you to describe the seizure, so it could be helpful to write down the details after it is over so that you can accurately tell your pediatrician what happened, how high their fever was, how long it lasted, etc.
How Pediatrics East Can Help
If you have any questions or concerns, please call our nurse’s line or schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. We are happy to answer any questions you have. Our ultimate goal is to get your child feeling better, so we are here for you every step of the way.
If your child is experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.