Febrile seizures occur in children when their body temperature gets too high; they usually last for a few minutes.Febrile seizures may occur as a result of the fever caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or as a side effect of some vaccines.Febrile seizures don’t mean the child suffers from epilepsy but increases its risk.Medical attention should be sought to determine the cause of fever.Don’t panic or be anxious; most often febrile seizures stop without intervention in a few minutes.Febrile seizures don’t pose threats to health and don’t signify serious medical conditions.
1. Simple febrile seizures.
They are more common, often ending in 1-2 minutes, although the symptoms may last up to 15 minutes after the episode. The child may feel sleepy but does not suffer weakness in the arms or legs. Simple febrile seizures do not recur within a 24-hour period.
2. Complex febrile seizures.
They are less common, and can last for 15-30 minutes. The child may suffer temporary weakness in the arms or legs. Acute seizures may recur more than once within 24 hours or are confined to one side of your child’s body.
Usually, a child having a febrile seizure shakes all over and loses consciousness. Sometimes, the child may get very stiff or twitch in just one area of the body.
A child having a febrile seizure may:
▪️ Have a fever higher than 100.4 F (38.0 C).
▪️ Lose consciousness.
▪️ Shake or jerk the arms and legs.
When to see a doctor.
See your child’s doctor as soon as possible after your child’s first febrile seizure, even if it lasts only a few seconds. Call an ambulance to take your child to the emergency room if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes or is accompanied by:
2. A stiff neck.
3. Breathing problems.
4. Extreme sleepiness.
Usually, a higher than normal body temperature causes febrile seizures. Even a low-grade fever can trigger a febrile seizure.
The fevers that trigger febrile seizures are usually caused by a viral infection, and less commonly by a bacterial infection. The flu (influenza) virus and the virus that causes roseola, which often are accompanied by high fevers, appear to be most frequently associated with febrile seizures.
2. Post-vaccination seizures.
The risk of febrile seizures may increase after some childhood vaccinations. These include the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. A child can develop a low-grade fever after a vaccination. The fever, not the vaccine, causes the seizure.
Factors that increase the risk of having a febrile seizure include:
▪️ Young age.
Most febrile seizures occur in children between 6 months and 5 years of age, with the greatest risk between 12 and 18 months of age.
▪️ Family history.
Some children inherit a family’s tendency to have seizures with a fever. Additionally, researchers have linked several genes to a susceptibility to febrile seizures.
Most febrile seizures produce no lasting effects. Simple febrile seizures don’t cause brain damage, intellectual disability or learning disabilities, and they don’t mean your child has a more serious underlying disorder.
Febrile seizures are provoked seizures and don’t indicate epilepsy. Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures caused by abnormal electrical signals in the brain.
Febrile seizures occur in children with normal development. Your doctor will carefully review your child’s medical history and developmental history to exclude other risk factors for epilepsy. In normally developing children, identifying the cause of your child’s fever is the first step after a febrile seizure.
Simple febrile seizures.
Children who are current with their vaccinations who have a first simple febrile seizure don’t need testing. Your doctor can diagnose the febrile seizure based on history.In children with a delayed vaccination schedule or a compromised immune system, your doctor may recommend tests to look for severe infections:
▪️ A blood test.
▪️ A urine test.
▪️ A spinal tap (lumbar puncture), to find out if your child has a central nervous system infection, such as meningitis.
Complex febrile seizures.
To diagnose the cause of a complex febrile seizure, your doctor may also recommend an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures brain activity.
Your doctor may also recommend an MRI to check your child’s brain if your child has:
▪️ An unusually large head.
▪️ An abnormal neurological evaluation.
▪️ Signs and symptoms of increased pressure in the skull.
▪️ A febrile seizure that lasted an unusually long time.
Most febrile seizures stop on their own within a couple of minutes.
If your child has a febrile seizure, stay calm and follow these steps:
▪️ Place your child on his or her side on a soft, flat surface where he or she won’t fall.
▪️ Start timing the seizure.
▪️ Stay close to watch and comfort your child.
▪️ Remove hard or sharp objects near your child.
▪️ Loosen tight or restrictive clothing.
▪️ Don’t restrain your child or interfere with your child’s movements.
▪️ Don’t put anything in your child’s mouth.
Call for emergency medical attention if:
▪️ Your child has a febrile seizure that lasts more than five minutes.
▪️ Your child has repeated seizures.
▪️ Your child’s seizure lasted less than five minutes but your child isn’t improving quickly.
A doctor may order medication to stop a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes.
Your child’s doctor may hospitalize the child for observation if:
▪️ The seizure is prolonged.
▪️ The child is younger than 6 months old.
▪️ The seizure is accompanied by a serious infection.
▪️ The source of the infection can’t be found.
But a hospital stay isn’t usually necessary for simple febrile seizures.