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Febrile Seizures

Seizures occur when the brain sends out abnormal electrical signals to the body. One common type of seizure in children is called a febrile seizure. These can occur when a child has a high fever, especially a fever that rises quickly. Pay close attention when your child gets a cold or fever and control it using children’s acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). DO NOT give a child aspirin. DO NOT give an infant 6 months of age or younger ibuprofen. These seizures happen most often when a child is sick with an illness, such as an infection, cold, or chickenpox. Though they can be very scary for parents and caregivers, febrile seizures are usually brief and rarely cause problems.

Woman holding her baby and feeling his forehead

Symptoms of a Febrile Seizure

Febrile seizures can last for anywhere between a few seconds and many minutes. They often occur in children with a fever of 102°F or more. The following are the most common signs of febrile seizures:

  • Convulsions (jerking of muscles)

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Biting of cheek or tongue

  • Clenched teeth or jaw

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

  • Change in breathing pattern

After the seizure is over, children often feel sleepy or confused. They may have a headache. And they may have no memory of the seizure.

What to Do If Your Child Has a Seizure

If your child shows signs of having a febrile seizure:

  • Stay calm.

  • Make sure the child is breathing.

  • Roll the child onto his or her side.

  • Remove any nearby objects that the child might hit.

  • Loosen any clothing around the child’s head and neck.

  • Remain with the child until the seizure is over.

Call your doctor and report the seizure. Be able to describe what happened before, during, and after the seizure.

What Not to Do During a Seizure

  • Do not try to restrain the child’s movements.

  • Do not put anything in the child’s mouth.

  • Do not give the child anything to eat or drink until he or she is awake and alert.

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if your child:

  • Has a fever over 104°F.

  • Has a seizure for the first time.

  • Has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes.

  • Has trouble breathing.

  • Has bluish skin.

  • Has a previously diagnosed heart condition.

  • Has a stiff neck or is extremely weak or tired.

  • Is injured during the seizure.

  • Remains unconscious, unresponsive, or confused for more than a 5 minutes after the seizure.

  • Has another seizure shortly after the first.

  • Shakes or has tremors after the seizure.

  • Vomits during the seizure.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor's office if your otherwise healthy child has any of the signs or symptoms described below:

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperatuer of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

  • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

  • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

  • A seizure caused by the fever 

Treating Febrile Seizures

Treatment for febrile seizures usually involves keeping your child’s fever down with children’s acetaminophen. Sponging the child with lukewarm water can help keep body temperature down. If your child has another medical problem, such as an ear infection, treating that problem with medication may prevent further seizures from occurring. Children who have had a febrile seizure often continue to have them. Most children outgrow the tendency to have febrile seizures by age 6.

 

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