Febrile Seizures

(Fever Seizures)

Definition

A febrile seizure is a convulsion (shaking, twitching, muscle tightness) or fainting associated with a fever. It occurs in infants or small children. This seizure is not associated with any other illness or medical condition except the fever. There are two types of febrile seizures:
  • Simple febrile seizures:
    • Convulsions last between a few seconds to 15 minutes
    • Seizures are followed by a period of confusion and sleepiness which slowly goes away
  • Complex febrile seizures:
    • Last longer than 15 minutes
    • Occur more than once within 24 hours
    • Convulsions which affect only part the body
Febrile seizures can be alarming. Fortunately, children tend to outgrow these seizures. There is also a low risk for long term physical or mental disorders.

Causes

High body temperature due to a fever is believed to trigger the seizure. The fever is most often caused by common viral infections. Some febrile seizures may be caused by fever after routine immunizations .

Risk Factors

Age is the greatest risk factor. Febrile seizures occur between the ages of 3 months to 5 years. Most febrile seizures occur in children between 6 months to 3 years of age. In general, the younger the age that the first febrile seizure occurs, the more likely it is that a child will have another seizure.There is some evidence that febrile seizures may run in families.

Symptoms

A seizure typically lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. Signs of a febrile seizure include:
  • A fever, usually above 102°F (38.9ºC)
  • Convulsion—jerking or stiffening muscles
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Coarse breathing sounds during the convulsion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Vomiting
  • Brief period of drowsiness or confusion following a seizure
If you suspect your child is having a febrile seizure, stay calm and follow these steps:
  • Unless the doctor has told you otherwise, call for emergency medical services.
  • Protect your child from physical injury. Place your child on the floor or bed away from any hard or sharp objects.
  • Protect your child's airway. Do not place anything in the mouth during the convulsion. Turn the child’s head or body to the side. This will allow saliva or vomit to drain from the mouth.
  • Watch the time. The length of the convulsions should be less than 5 minutes.

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