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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. Febrile seizures usually occur in children between the ages of 3 months to 6 years old. They are most commonly seen in toddlers between 12 months and 18 months of age. Children who have had a febrile seizure may have another seizure the next time they have a fever. Most children outgrow the risk of febrile seizures by age 6. Febrile seizures can be very scary for parents and caregivers. But they usually don’t last long. And they rarely cause long-term health problems.     

Risk factors for febrile seizures

A febrile seizure can be triggered by:

  • A recent vaccination, especially a measles mumps rubella shot

  • A bacterial or viral illness or infection. This includes a cold, the flu, chickenpox, or an ear infection.

  • A family history of febrile seizures

  • A temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or greater 

Types of febrile seizures

Febrile seizures are classified as either simple or complex.

Simple febrile seizures:

  • Most common type

  • Last less than 15 minutes

  • Usually occur once within 24 hours

Complex febrile seizures:

  • Affect only one limb or one side of the body

  • Last longer than 15 minutes

  • Usually occur more than once within 24 hours

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. The following are the most common signs of febrile seizures:

  • Jerking of muscles (convulsions)

  • 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 (to avoid choking on their saliva or vomit)

  • Remove any nearby objects that your child might hit, causing additional injury

  • Loosen any clothing around your child’s head and neck

  • Stay with your child until the seizure is over

  • Keep track of how long the seizure lasts

Call your child's healthcare provider and report the seizure. Be able to describe what happened before, during, and after the seizure.

What not to do during a seizure

  • Don’t put your child in a cold bath.

  • Don’t stop (restrain) your child’s movements.

  • Don’t put anything in your child’s mouth.

  • Don’t give your child anything to eat or drink until he or she is awake and alert.

When to call your child's healthcare provider

Call your child's provider right away if your child has any of the following signs or symptoms.

Fever:

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

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

  • In a child of any age, a fever of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

  • A fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old

  • A fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

Other signs or symptoms:

  • A seizure for the first time

  • A previously diagnosed heart condition

  • Another seizure shortly after the first

  • Is extremely weak in the arms and legs

  • Continuous shakes or tremors

  • A lot of  pain or a severe headache

  • Your child seems to be getting worse, or still seems sick once the fever is down

  • Signs of fluid loss (dehydration). These include severe thirst, dark yellow urine, not urinating often, dull or sunken eyes, dry skin, and dry or cracked lips.

Call 911

Call 911 right away if your child:

  • Has a seizure that lasts 5 minutes or more 

  • Has a stiff neck

  • Vomits during the seizure

  • Remains unconscious, unresponsive, or confused after the seizure

  • Has trouble breathing

  • Has trouble swallowing or talking

  • Has pale or bluish skin

  • Is injured during the seizure

 

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