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 time 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

When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

  • Has another seizure in the current illness lasting more than 5 minutes and/or does not recover rapidly afterwards
  • Becomes extremely agitated, confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
  • Becomes pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch Is going blue around the lips
  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • Has another febrile convulsion (less than 5 minutes) in the current illness
  • Remains drowsy or lethargic more than an hour after their seizure
  • Seems dehydrated (dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears, passing less urine than usual)
  • Is becoming drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them with toys, TV, food or picking up) – especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down
  • Continues to have a fever above 38.0°C for more than 5 days
  • Seems to be getting worse or if you are worried

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

If none of the above features are present

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

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.

  • 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

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.

Where should you seek help?

Self Care

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between.

Self-care

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Local Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health Visitors

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School Nurses

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GP (General Practitioner)

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

NHS 111

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Accident and Emergency

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
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