General Health & Wellness • Jul 27, 2010

Understanding Febrile Seizures | 7 Common Questions

It’s midnight. Your child has been fussy all day, and you are holding her in your arms. She feels hot and suddenly her eyes roll back and her arms and legs are jerking. It is very frightening. What is wrong with your child? She has had a febrile seizure. I have often seen parents bring in their child after a febrile seizure, frightened and worried. So I would like to address some of the common questions asked about febrile seizures.

1) What is a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures are seizures accompanied by fevers that occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. They are most common between the ages of 12 months to 18 months. Though frightening to parents, they are harmless most of the time.

2) Are they going to cause brain damage?

NO. Febrile seizures do not cause brain damage. Studies have shown that there is no difference in IQ or school performance between children with histories of febrile seizures when compared with children without febrile seizures.

3) What should I do during the seizure?

First, stay calm! Try to time the seizure to see how long it lasts. Make sure your child is on a safe surface, lying on his/her side to prevent choking on vomit or saliva. Call 911 if the seizure lasts more than 10 minutes, or if there is recurrent vomiting, a stiff neck, or difficulty breathing.

4) What should I NOT do during the seizure?

  • Do NOT put anything in your child’s mouth!
  • Do NOT attempt to lower the fever by bathing your child with cold water or rubbing alcohol on his/her body!

5) What should I do after the seizure stops?

Call your doctor immediately. Your child should be seen by a healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine the cause of the fever. Your health care provider may see your child in the office immediately or may instruct you to visit the ER. If there is no obvious source of the fever, they may run some tests to determine the cause of the fever.

6) Does my child need a CT scan or MRI?

NO.  Imaging studies such as a CT scan and MRI are not needed after a simple febrile seizure.

7) Will my child have a seizure with every fever in the future?

One-third of children with a febrile seizure will have another febrile seizure. The risk for having another seizure is greater if the child is younger than 18 months at the time of occurrence of the first seizure, if there is a family history of febrile seizure, or if the temperature was not very high at the time of the first febrile seizure.

Has your child had a febrile seizure?  What did you do?  What was your experience in the emergency room if you went to one?  Please share your experience and concerns.