A febrile seizure is the convulsion or fit in a child due to a spike in the body temperature mostly due to infection. It can occur in a normal child suffering from fever without any history of previous neurological condition.
It can be frightening to see a kid in such a condition hence it is all the more important to educate ourselves about the condition. Although the episode can look scary to a parent, in most cases there is no long term implications.
Febrile seizures usually occur in young children who are between the ages of 3 months to 3 years. These convulsions usually occur during very high fever that is over 102.2 to 104°F (39 to 40°C) or higher. The rapid change in temperature is a factor in triggering a seizure. There are two types of seizures- simple seizures which are more common and complex seizures which last longer.
Many times seizures can be the first symptom during sickness as fever mostly happens during the first day of illness. Most common causes are-bacterial/viral infections, Influenza and roseola infection, fever associated with immunizations like DPT, MMR.
Febrile seizures most often occur within 24 hours of the onset of a fever and can be the first sign if the child is ill. The child will have high grade fever, shakes all over and loses consciousness. Child may also get stiff or twitch in one area. See a doctor immediately if your child has suffered from the convulsions and suffers from any of the following-
- Seizure lasting more than 5 minutes
- Stiff neck
- Breathing issue
- Extreme sleepiness
A single episode of febrile seizures increases the chances of subsequent febrile seizure in the next year to 35%.
No specific laboratory studies are indicated for a simple febrile seizure. The focus is on finding the cause of fever. Laboratory tests may be indicated for the underlying illness.
In cases if the paediatrician suspects meningitis (infection of the membranes of the brain) a lumbar puncture might be advised.
While febrile seizures often don’t cause any lasting issues, there are important steps to take when your child has one.
If your child is having a febrile seizure:
- roll them onto their side
- don’t put anything in their mouth
- don’t restrict the movement of the convulsions or twitching
- remove or move any objects that might harm them during the convulsions (furniture, sharp items, etc.)
- time the seizure
After the febrile seizure ends, see a doctor immediately. You may be prescribed medicines to lower fever like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Also it is advised to do tepid sponging over the limbs of the baby.
Hospitalization is only required if your child has a more serious infection that needs to be treated. The majority of children don’t need any medication for a febrile seizure. In cases of recurrent seizures, per rectal medicine may be advised.
Most children do not have any significant risk of developing epilepsy (seizure disorder) in future.
It may be a traumatising experience to see your kid in a seizure but it is caused due to high fever and mostly does not have any long lasting impact on baby health. Your child should have normal development and learning after a febrile seizure.
Dr Prerna Gaur