Febrile Seizures

A seizure is the same as a convulsion or fit, but a febrile seizure is a convulsion brought on by a sudden rise in your child’s temperature. The child usually loses consciousness and is often stiff or has muscle twitching for several minutes. After a seizure, your child will usually sleep for several hours. On awakening, your child should be feeling much better.

The diagnosis of a "febrile seizure" cannot be made over the phone. More serious infections can cause a fever and a seizure. The diagnosis is made after your child is examined by a doctor and other more serious causes are eliminated (meningitis or other bacterial infections).

Are Febrile Seizures Are Very Common?

One in 25 children has a febrile seizure. These seizures occur in children between the ages of six months and four years. They are a problem of toddlers.

Are Febrile Seizures A Form Of Epilepsy?

Just because your child has had a febrile seizure does not mean he has epilepsy. The term epilepsy is used when a child has repeated seizures without fever.

Will Febrile Seizures Cause Brain Damage Or Epilepsy?

No. Even though febrile seizures are very dramatic and frightening, they do not normally cause brain damage or epilepsy. Even very prolonged seizures rarely cause damage. Of all children with febrile seizures, 97 percent do not later develop epilepsy.

What Are The Chances Of A Febrile Seizure Occurring Again?

Febrile seizures often recur. Almost half of children who have a first febrile seizure will have another one. Repeated febrile seizures, however, do not mean that a child has epilepsy. Your child will outgrow the tendency to have febrile seizures as he/she approaches three to four years of age.

What Can Parents Do During A Seizure?

There is nothing that you can do to make your child's seizure any shorter. There are a few things you should keep in mind. First, stay calm. Your child will be fine.

It is important to protect your child from getting hurt (falling down steps, etc.) during a seizure. Place your child on a soft surface, either lying on his/her side or stomach. Do not restrain and do not put anything in your child’s mouth. Your child will not choke. Once the seizure stops, call our office.

Are Any Medicines Necessary To Treat A Febrile Seizure?

If your child’s seizure stops within ten minutes, no medicines are necessary. Prolonged seizures may require phenobarbital, dilantin, or valium to stop the seizure. Some children may require long-term daily medication to prevent febrile seizures.

Should My Child Be Seen By A Pediatrician?

All seizures require an evaluation by your pediatrician or a doctor in the emergency room. Most seizures will stop by 10 minutes. Once the seizure has stopped, call our office. If the seizure has not stopped by 10 minutes, take your child to the emergency room and then call our office.

Drive very carefully. A few minutes longer will not make any important difference.

Can A Febrile Seizure Be Prevented?

Constant attention to your child's temperature will not be helpful in preventing a febrile seizure. Sometimes a seizure is the first sign of fever. If your child does have a fever, controlling the temperature will make your child more comfortable. See our Tylenol dose chart on the Parents Link Page on our Web site.

We hope your life-style and relationship with your child will not be upset by this frightening experience. If you have any questions, please call our office.

Adapted from an article by: Peter R. Carnfield, MD, FRCP and Carol S. Carnfield, MD, FRCP at Izaak Walton Killarn Children's Hospital


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