Febrile seizures in children are surprisingly common but unsurprisingly terrifying!
A febrile convulsion is often caused by infection and usually occurs when a child’s temperature rises over 38°c. Viral upper respiratory infections are a common culprit! They most commonly occur during a quick spike of temperature. It involves your child having a seizure – in the olden days seizures were known as fits but that term is quite outdated now. Seizures can be extremely scary and distressing to watch, especially if it’s your child’s first one as it can look really dramatic which leaves you fearing the worst but its important to know that they are generally quite harmless and your child will recover fully. Just because your child has had a seizure does not mean they have a neurological issue and does not indicate that they will go on to suffer from seizures in their adult life. Seizures are most common in kids up to the age of six and having one does make your child more likely to have another whilst they are still a child any time their temperature spikes quickly – but remember if it happens again you will know whats happening and what to expect.
What does a febrile seizure look like?
During a febrile seizure your child’s body will likely become stiff and they lose consciousness. Their legs and arms may then twitch and its not uncommon for them to wet themselves at this point. Your child may bite down on their tongue which may cause a little bleeding from the mouth. There are different types of seizures with simple ones lasting just a couple of minutes (which feel like forever!) and complex ones which can last over 15 minutes. Seizures lasting over 15 minutes may well require hospital admission and further investigation. Once a seizure is over your child will be really out of sorts, generally irritable, cranky and tired. This is normal and usually lasts a few hours.
Why does a febrile seizure happen?
Disruption to the electrical impulses which pass between cells in the brain can cause your body to act in an abnormal way. There is not always a known reason to say why one child will suffer from febrile seizures and another will not but about 1 in 4 of children who do will have had a family member who also suffered from seizures. A total of approximately 1 in 20 children will suffer from a febrile seizure and they most commonly occur between six months and three years of age. Suffering from febrile seizures as a child only increases your likelihood of developing epilepsy s an adult very slightly (1 in 50 increased risk for simple seizures) so it is not a case that one leads to the other.
There is no specific treatment for febrile seizures other than treating the infection that has caused your child’s temperature to spike.
During a seizure you should stay with your child. You should place them away from hard or dangerous objects, perhaps on the floor or on a bed. Try to keep an eye on the time so you know how long the seizure is lasting. Do not put anything in your child’s mouth. Once a seizure is over you should place your child in the recovery position and contact your doctor. This useful info-graphic from the NHS in the UK is excellent for explaining what you should do after a febrile seizure.
- So obviously in Ireland the emergency contact number is 112 or 999 and instead of contacting NHS Direct you would be following the advice of your GP if it was not your child’s first seizure and you were happy to treat them at home if the cause of the fever was known to you.
- There is no specific treatment for febrile seizures other than treating the underlying cause of the child’s high temperature, such as using antibiotics to treat an infection.
- There’s no real way of preventing febrile seizures but treatment with paracetamol or ibuprofen may allow your child to be more comfortable. Don’t give medication during the active part of a seizure though as you shouldn’t be putting anything into your child’s mouth.
- Check out my blog on managing high temperatures!
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page or my website contact page or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262.
Mayo Clinic Info-Graphic