What are febrile seizures?
- Febrile seizures are convulsions that are brought on by a fever. These happen in infants and small children. They usually happen as the child’s temperature is rising. Many febrile seizures happen during the first day of a child’s fever.
- The child often loses consciousness. Often both arms and legs jerk. Sometimes, the body will get stiff. There might be jerking in just part of the body, like an arm or leg on the same side of the body.
- Most febrile seizures last one to two minutes. Sometimes they are very brief and at times much longer.
- Most children outgrow febrile seizures by the time they are 5 years old.
- How common are febrile seizures?
- About one in 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure.
- More than one third of these children will have more febrile seizures.
- Febrile seizures happen between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and are common in toddlers.
Are febrile seizures harmful?
- Most febrile seizures are not harmful.
- Since most febrile seizures stop on their own, they do not cause brain damage or learning problems.
- Most children who have febrile seizures will not have seizures without fever after age 5.
- Most children with febrile seizures do not develop epilepsy. Some children with febrile seizures will later develop epilepsy. The risk factors are:
- slow development.
- seizures without fever in a family member.
- febrile seizures that last longer than 15 minutes.
- seizures that affect only one side of the body.
How are febrile seizures prevented and treated?
- Medicine to lower fever may be used but this might not prevent a febrile seizure from happening.
- A sponge bath with luke-warm water (not cold water) may help reduce fever and make your child more comfortable.
- Daily use of seizure medicine is not often recommended unless your child’s febrile seizures are long, complicated, or you live in an area where you cannot get medical care quickly.
- Some children are given a medicine to stop or prevent a seizure only when the child has a fever.
How do I care for my child during a febrile seizure?
- Stay calm. Carefully watch your child.
- Place your child on the floor, ground, or bed.
- Do not hold your child down. Do not try to stop the body movements.
- Turn your child on his or her side. This helps saliva drain out of the mouth.
- Clear the area of any hard, sharp or hot objects that might harm your child.
- Do not place anything in the mouth during a seizure.
- Breathing can become irregular or there can be a color change around the lips. This is normal.
- After the seizure, your child might throw up. Keep your child on his or her side for a few minutes.
- Keep track of the time. If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes call 911.
- Ask your child’s doctor if he or she should have a medicine that you can give to stop a long seizure.
Where can I get more information?
8301 Professional Place
Landover MD 20785
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 12/05/2011
Copyright © 12/02/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7291
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