Febrile Seizure 101: What Parents Should Know

febrile seizure

Seeing your child twitch and convulse is not something any parent is prepared for. But rest assured that febrile seizures are actually quite common and happen to one out of every 25 kids between 3 months and 6 years old. Nonetheless, it’s still difficult to see your child in this condition. Although a febrile seizure will normally stop on its own, never hesitate to call 911 or take them to the emergency room right away.

What is a Febrile Seizure?

Febrile seizures are basically convulsions that happen with a fever above 100.4°F (38°C). They normally only last for a few minutes. Thankfully, these seizures are not tied to the seizure disorder called epilepsy.

There are two types of febrile seizures:

  1. Simple febrile seizures are called “simple” because they only last a few minutes. Signs of febrile seizures are the same as epileptic seizures, which may include shaking, convulsing, and twitching. Your child may also vomit, moan, become unconscious, or their eyes may roll to the back of their head.
  2. Complex febrile seizures are less common than simple febrile seizures, making up only 4 out of every 20 cases. The difference between complex and simple febrile seizures is that these seizures last longer than 15 minutes or happen more than one time within a 24-hour period. Additionally, instead of whole body convulsions that happen with simple febrile seizures, your child may only have one body part that twitches or shakes. Recovery time may be longer with complex febrile seizures: sometimes your child may not return to their normal behavior until an hour later.

Who Can Get a Febrile Seizure?

Febrile seizures are most common in toddlers 12–18 months old, but they can happen to children between 3 months to 6 years old. Children who are at higher risk for febrile seizures are those with a family history. Children that have already had one febrile seizure and those who were younger than 15 months at the time of their first febrile seizure are more likely to experience another episode.

What Causes a Febrile Seizure?

There is no confirmed cause of febrile seizures, but there is evidence that suggests they may be the result of the way a child’s developing brain interacts with a high fever caused by certain viruses.

How Do You Make a Febrile Seizure Stop?

Febrile seizures typically stop on their own without treatment. But take note that your child may still have a fever or feel sleepy after the seizure stops. Fortunately, there is no evidence that they cause other health issues. The best thing to do if your child has a seizure is to go to your nearest emergency room. 

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