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What is a febrile seizure?
Seizures can sometimes occur when a child has a fever. These are called “fever seizures” or “febrile seizures.” Febrile seizures can occur in children ages 6 months to 5 years, but are most common in toddlers ages 12 months to 18 months. Febrile seizures are frightening, but they aren’t as dangerous as they may appear.
How serious are febrile seizures?
Generally, febrile seizures aren’t harmful to a child. A febrile seizure doesn’t cause brain damage. Also, your child can’t swallow their tongue during a seizure (it is physically impossible for someone to swallow their tongue). Febrile seizures usually last a few minutes. It’s very unusual for a febrile seizure to last more than 5 minutes. Your child may need to be seen by a healthcare provider so the cause of the fever can be found.
How will I know my child is having a febrile seizure?
If your child has a febrile seizure, they may become unconscious and roll their eyes back. Your child’s arms and legs may become stiff or shake and twitch. Your child may also vomit. After a seizure, your child may feel drowsy and confused.
What should I do if my child has a seizure?
- Put your child on their side so that they won’t choke on saliva or vomit.
- Don’t put anything in your child’s mouth.
- Don’t restrain your child’s movements during the seizure.
- Try to remain calm. Most seizures stop on their own within a few minutes, so keep your eyes on a clock or watch.
- Call 911 if the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, if your baby is under 6 months old, or it is accompanied by a stiff neck, vomiting or breathing problems.
- Don’t try to lower your child’s fever by placing them in a cold bath, especially during a seizure.
Will my child have more seizures?
Most children won’t have another seizure. But the risk of another febrile seizure is slightly higher if your child is younger than 18 months, if there’s a family history of febrile seizures or if the fever wasn’t very high when the seizure occurred.
If my child has a febrile seizure, does this mean that my child has epilepsy?
No. A single seizure does not mean your child has epilepsy. Even repeated febrile seizures aren’t considered epilepsy, because children outgrow the risk of having a seizure caused by fever. A child who has epilepsy usually has 2 or more seizures that aren’t caused by fever.
Febrile seizures don’t cause epilepsy. But the chance of epilepsy developing in a child who has had several febrile seizures is slightly higher than if they didn’t have a febrile seizure. The chance of epilepsy developing in a child who has had a febrile seizure is less than 5%. There is no evidence that treating your child with medicine for febrile seizures will prevent epilepsy.
Can febrile seizures be prevented with medicine?
Maybe, but many healthcare providers believe the risk of side effects from seizure medicines are worse than the child having another febrile seizure. Even if medicine is used, it may not prevent another seizure.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
- What caused my child’s febrile seizure?
- Will my child have another febrile seizure?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent a febrile seizure?
- Are there signs that I should look for before my child has a febrile seizure?
- Should I hold my child while they have a febrile seizure?
- Should I put a tongue depressor in their mouth during the seizure?
- Is there anything I can do after a seizure to make my child more comfortable?
- Should I have my child checked for epilepsy if they have a seizure?