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Febrile Seizures - A Big Scare For Parents — an article on the Smart Living Network
January 22, 2012 at 8:14 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Febrile Seizures - A Big Scare For Parents


Just imagine: your child is spiking a fever, as children often do, when suddenly they go into a convulsive state, a seizure, a gridlock situation, a complete loss of control.

Nothing is worse for a parent than standing by helpless as their child suffers, but as frightening as such a scenario is, seizures associated with fever, or febrile seizures, are actually common and there are rarely any harmful consequences!

This blog will examine and prepare parents for the possibility of a febrile seizure.

How common are febrile seizures?

It is estimated that as much as 1 in 25 children will have a febrile seizure at some point.

In which age group do febrile seizure occur most commonly?

Febrile seizures mostly occur between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, but can occur up to the age of 5. 

What causes a febrile seizure?

They are, by their nature, always associated with a fever.  The seizure can occur as the temperature is going up or coming down, usually in a period of rapid change.  Temperature is usually above 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C) when the seizure occurs though this is not always the case. 

How long do febrile seizures last?

For parents, the seizure seems like an eternity.  In actuality, however, the seizures usually last a few seconds to 10 minutes in duration.

What are the symptoms of a febrile seizure?

Though no seizure is the same, febrile seizures usually involve shaking or jerking of the legs on both sides of the body.  Eyes may roll back.  The child may lose consciousness and breathing may become labored.  Such seizures are labeled as “simple.” 

“Complex” febrile seizures last longer than 15 minutes, occur twice in a 24 hour period or involve only part of the body.  Following a febrile seizure, the child may be tired or confused but this will subside.

Are there long-term effects of febrile seizures?

Though extremely frightening for both parents and children, it is important to realize that these are almost always harmless.  There are no long-term effects of a febrile seizure such as brain damage, learning issues or mental illness.

Does a febrile seizure more likely to develop epilepsy?

Febrile seizures are not a risk or a lead-in for the condition of epilepsy (a chronic seizure condition).

What are the risk factors for febrile seizures?

Some conditions put a child at a greater risk for having a febrile seizure. Primarily, having a previous febrile seizure makes a child more likely to have another. These will resolve, however, usually by the age of 5.  A family history of febrile seizures also puts a child at a greater risk.

How can I prepare for the possibility of a first febrile seizure?

As a parent, my first recommendation is to arm yourself with knowledge about the potential of febrile seizures.  Reading this blog is a great start!  Secondly, remain calm if a febrile seizure occurs.  Remove anything that could injury your child and bring them to the floor.  Reassure them that everything will be fine and the seizure will pass.  After it passes, continue reassuring the child that things are fine.  Treat the fever with acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen.

How can I prevent more febrile seizures from occurring?

Prevention of subsequent febrile seizures is important via aggressive treatment of any fever or prevention in the event of an emerging illness.  Overlapping acetaminophen every 6 hours and ibuprofen every 8 hours is helpful to prevent waning coverage as one medication wears off. 

HOWEVER, fever control without a history of febrile seizure is not necessary.

What should I do if my child has had a febrile seizure?

See your doctor for a follow up visit if it was the child’s first febrile seizure,  if “complex” symptoms were present or if the child is over the age of 5.  A seizure that was not associated with fever is not a febrile seizure and should always be evaluated by a doctor.

Despite the fact that they are relatively common and rarely harmful, febrile seizures are scary.  Knowledge of their potential in children is important for all parents.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Whittemore

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  • At what point would one want to consider using a drug like Keppra with complex febrile seizures? Is it common to control febrile seizures with daily meds if it is truly only febrile seizures? Our child has had 7 in the past 8 months now and the neurologist has been talking to us about potentially putting her on them.

    November - she had 3 in one day
    - 30 seconds around 11am and focal on one side of her body
    - 2 minutes around 2pm and focal
    - 3 minutes around 9pm and focal
    - EEG and tests were all normal

    Mid Feb - she had 2 in one day
    - 4 minutes around 3pm and focal
    - 3 minutes around 5pm and on both sides

    May 29th
    - 6 minutes and they gave her the Diazepam after 5 min as dr told us to do in that situation

    June 12
    - 6-7 minutes and my husband gave her the Diazepam after 5 min

  • Nice article

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