A febrile seizure (also called a fever fit or febrile convulsion) is associated with a high body temperature, but without any serious underlying health issue. They most commonly occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Febrile seizures generally last less than five minutes, while a fever may last for some time after.
This condition was bought to our attention by one of our Customer Service team members as his daughter has experienced febrile seizures recently. You can read his account below:
“The first time it happened we were eating breakfast in a cafe and Neive was fine. Then her head just dropped, her eyes rolled back, she went grey and didn’t respond to anything. My wife called an ambulance and I was hugging her tight laying on the floor crying my eyes out because it literally looked like she was dying in my arms.
The medic gave us loads of tips like stripping her off to cool her down and in future to check her feet because if it’s a febrile convulsion they stay pink. I had nightmares for weeks but as soon as they got her in the ambulance she came around and was back to her normal chatty self.
It’s just when they get high temperatures, so their body shuts down in order to fight the illness. Sometimes where the children are so young, they can’t tell you they feel ill, or to what level, so it usually goes unnoticed. The doctors advice was that when it happens it’s best to pop the child in a cold bath* as soon as possible to bring their temperature down.”
*We have found varying information on this tip with the majority being that a child should not take a cold or luke-warm bath to reduce the fever. What is your advice on this matter?
Symptoms And Causes
As mentioned above febrile seizures are due to fevers (usually higher than 38 °C) often caused by a viral infection. The likelihood of a seizure is related to how high the temperature rises. The seizures always occur without any metabolic problems or intracranial infections. If these are the cause then it is no longer a febrile seizure.
During febrile seizures the body will become stiff and the arms and legs will begin twitching. Consciousness is lost even though the eyes will remain open and breathing can become irregular. Incontinence can occur as well as other secretions, namely foam at the mouth. Seizures will rarely last more than five minutes.
Diagnosis And Prevention
We will preface the next two paragraphs by saying that if your child is showing any of these symptoms you should call 999 right away. Please do not make any medication decisions without the opinion of a healthcare professional.
Once serious causes of seizure and fever such as meningitis, encephalitis, etc have been eliminated, then you can start to consider that it may be a febrile seizure. Blood tests, brain imaging and other such diagnostics are rarely needed for these kinds of seizures to be diagnosed. There is not currently any effective medication for the prevention of febrile seizures and whilst some medicines have shown to slightly reduce recurrent seizures, the adverse effects far outweigh the benefits.
What To Do If Your Child Has A Febrile Seizure
If your child has a febrile seizure, stay calm and act immediately to prevent injury.
- Place them on the floor or bed away from any hard or sharp objects.
- Turn their head to the side so that any saliva or vomit can drain from their mouth.
- Loosen any clothing around the head and neck.
- Do not put anything into their mouth.
After this, call 999 if:
- The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes
- The seizure lasts less than 5 minutes but the child does not seem to be recovering quickly
- Has trouble breathing or turns blue
- This is the child’s first febrile seizure. This is to make sure that the cause of the fever is not a serious infection e.g. meningitis
Otherwise, you should set up an appointment with your GP to find the cause for the fever.