What is a febrile seizure?
Infants and children often have illnesses that are accompanied by a fever. A fever might bring on a seizure at some time during childhood. A febrile seizure is a convulsion caused by abnormal electrical activity in the nerve cells of the brain that is brought on by having a fever.
The exact cause of febrile seizures is not known. Seizures might occur when a child's temperature rises or falls rapidly. In many cases, a seizure might not be predicted or prevented. In addition, febrile seizures might run in families.
Facts about febrile seizures
- A febrile seizure usually occurs between 6 months and 5 years of age.
- Usually, children have a rectal temperature greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Usually, the seizure would occur during the first day of the fever.
- Febrile seizures usually last 3 to 5 minutes.
- Most children only have 1 or 2 febrile seizures in childhood.
- A febrile seizure might involve only 1 arm or 1 side of the body, which is focal, and then progress to the whole body, which is generalized. It also may affect both sides of the body from the start.
- Epilepsy is a disorder of repeated seizures that occur without fever. Even repeated febrile seizures do not indicate that a child has epilepsy.
- Febrile seizures generally do not cause brain damage unless they last for a prolonged period of time and the child is not getting enough oxygen.
What are the symptoms of a febrile seizure?
- Not all symptoms might occur.
- A fever that is high or a rapid rise in body temperature.
- Loss of consciousness or fainting that lasts 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
- General muscle contraction and rigidity that usually last 15 to 20 seconds.
- Violent rhythmic muscle contractions and relaxation that commonly last for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Biting of cheek or tongue.
- Clenched teeth or jaw.
- Rolling of the eyes back in the head.
- Loss of control of urine or stool.
- Absence of breathing or difficulty breathing during a seizure and blue skin color. (Deep, spontaneous breathing, usually resumes after the seizure.)
First-aid for febrile seizures
- Stay calm.
- Protect the child from injury.
- Do not attempt to restrain or hold the child down during the seizure.
- Turn the child onto his or her side if vomiting occurs.
- Do not put anything in your child's mouth.
- Loosen clothing.
- Support your child's head with a pillow or soft object.
- Try to note how long the seizure lasts, what types of movements are occurring, and which parts of the body it is affecting.
- Notify your doctor.
- After the seizure subsides, your child will be disoriented for a few minutes while the brain rests and recharges. This is normal.
Call 9-1-1 ambulance if:
- This is the first time the child has had a seizure or if this is a new type of seizure for the child.
- The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- Repeated seizures occur.
- Your child has difficulty breathing.
- Your child’s skin appears to be blue in color.