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Febrile seizure: When do they occur and when to worry?

A febrile seizure is a form of seizure that only manifests when an individual has a fever and not triggered by other factors. It is quite common among children between 6 months up to 5 years old. Even though distressing for parents, the episodes are not harmful and will not lead to brain damage. Many children who have a febrile seizure will not develop a seizure disorder in the future such as epilepsy.

Characteristic of a febrile seizure

A febrile seizure can last for a few seconds up to 10 or even 15 minutes. The indications that a child is experiencing one can be minor as eyes rolling back in the head and stiffening of the leg or arm or evident such as whole body convulsions with loss of consciousness. In some cases, children will be upset once the seizure stops and some will not.

When do they occur?

Febrile seizure
It is quite common among children between 6 months up to 5 years old.

It is not precisely known why a febrile seizure occurs in some children and not to others and there is no way to predict if a child will have one or not.

In most cases, an episode often occurs within the initial 24 hours of a fever. An episode arises when the temperature of a child reaches over 102 degrees F. Nevertheless, they do not typically occur when the temperature is at the highest level.

What should I do?

In case a child has a febrile seizure, do not attempt to hold or restrain during an episode. Even though the ordeal can be upsetting, the ideal move is to clear up any object from the child that can harm him/her and wait for the seizure to stop and then seek medical care. Other measures to be considered include the following:

  • Do not place anything inside the mouth.
  • Do not provide the child with any medication during an episode.
  • Do not attempt to put him/her in a bath to cool him/her off.
  • Once the seizure stops, consult a doctor.

Call for emergency assistance right away for the following:

  • Seizure does not stop after 10 minutes
  • Child appears dehydrated or has excessive vomiting
  • Child has difficulty breathing or turns gray or bluish in color
  • Child appears lethargic and not responding as usual after a seizure

What happens next?

Remember that there is no way to prevent a febrile seizure. Most doctors will recommend fever-reducing medications to manage the fever but it was discovered in studies that lowering the fever using medications will not prevent seizures.

Only a small percentage of children who experience a single febrile seizure will have another one. Most children grow out of them by the time they reach 5 years old. Many children do not require further testing but if the doctor has any concerns on the exact cause, other tests might be required.

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