Will my child have a seizure / febrile convulsion?

A febrile seizure is a convulsion that occurs in some children with a high temperature (fever).  Although it can be extremely scary the first itme you see your child have one, most of the time they are not serious.  Most occur with common illnesses such as ear infections, colds and other viral infections.  Full recovery with no permanent damage is usual.  The main treatment is aimed at the illness that caused the fever.

Who gets them?

  • They occur in about 1 in 20 children, most commonly between 6 months – 3 years of age.
  • They often occur on the first day of an illness associated with fever. There appears to be no connection between how high a child’s fever is and whether they have a seizure - they can occur even with mild fevers.
  • Most children will not have another seizure during the same illness.
  • 1 in 3 children who have a febrile convulsion may go on to have further febrile convulsions in the future. This is more likely if other members of the family have had febrile seizures.
  • Febrile convulsions are not epilepsy. Regular treatment for prevention of future seizures is usually not necessary. There is a small risk of your child developing epilepsy in the future and many parents worry about this, however, most children who have childhood simple febrile convulsions grow out of them and do not develop epilepsy.
  • If your child has had a previous febrile convulsion, has a clear cause for their fever, their seizure stops quickly and they are back to normal soon after, they may be cared for at home. The first time your child has a seizure, you should call an ambulance

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What should you do?

  • Place your child in the recovery position – on their side, on a soft surface with their face turned to one side. This will stop them swallowing any vomit and keep their airway protected. 

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  • Stay with your child and try to jot down what time their seizure starts and stops.
  • Do not put anything in your child’s mouth.
  • When the seizure stops, you can give them paracetamol (calpol) or ibuprofen.  However, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that this will stop them having a further febrile convulsion. Always follow instructions on the bottle and do not exceed daily maximum doses.
  • Tepid sponging is not recommended – it does not reduce fever and may cause your child discomfort.

 

Download 'Febrile Convulsion' Advice Sheet

How long will the symptoms last?

  • In most cases, children with simple febrile convulsions appear dazed and their eyes may roll back.
  • Their bodies may go stiff, their arms and legs may twitch or shake and they will become unresponsive for a few seconds. It is unusual for the febrile convulsion to last for more than 5 minutes.
  • Your child may be sleepy for a few minutes afterwards.

 

Feverish ChildWhen should you worry?

Seek immediate medical help – call 999 or go to the nearest A&E, if your child:

  • has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes.
  • has not fully recovered within an hour of their seizure.
  • has another seizure within 24 hours of the first one.
  • has a focal seizure, which means that rather than their whole body being stiff or shaking, only a part of them is affected – for example just one arm or just one leg.
  • has difficulty breathing following their seizure.
  • develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (do the ‘Glass Test’). 
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Where should you seek help?

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