Parents, do you know what to do in case your child starts having convulsions when they have a fever? Febrile seizures can cause any parent to panic. However, it’s best to be alert and know what to do and what not to do in case this happens.
What Is a Febrile Seizure?
Febrile seizures are seizures caused by having a high body temperature, but not necessarily any serious health issue. They’re also sometimes called fever fits or febrile convulsions. These seizures usually happen in children within 6 months to 5 years. They usually last for less than 5 minutes, and the child should make a full recovery within an hour.
One in every 20 children will experience one or more febrile convulsions. A febrile convulsion is not epilepsy and does not affect the brain. Around 30 per cent of newborns and children who have experienced one febrile convulsion will experience another. It is impossible to determine who will be affected or when this will occur.
Signs & Symptoms of Febrile Seizures
There are two types of febrile seizures:
The most common type of seizure is a simple febrile seizure. They normally last a few minutes but can extend up to 15 minutes in rare circumstances. A child may have the following symptoms during this type of seizure:
- convulse, shake, and twitch all over the place
- succumb to unconsciousness (pass out)
- vomit or urinate (pee) when having convulsions
Meanwhile, Complex febrile seizures last more than 10 minutes, occur more than once in 24 hours and include only one region or side of the body moving or twitching.
Causes of Febrile Seizures
Febrile convulsions occur only when the body temperature rises. The fever is usually caused by a viral infection or, in rare cases, a bacterial infection.
A child’s developing brain is more vulnerable to fever than an adult’s brain. Febrile convulsions appear to run in families, yet the cause is unknown.
Who Suffers From Febrile Seizures?
Febrile seizures (FEH-bryle) affect children aged 6 months to 5 years. They are most common in toddlers aged 12 to 18 months.
A febrile seizure is more likely in children if:
- They have a history of febrile seizures in their family.
- They already have one. One in every three children who have had one febrile seizure will have another, usually within one to two years of the first.
- They experienced their first febrile seizure when they were less than 15 months old.
By the age of five, most children have outgrown febrile seizures.
Febrile seizures are not classified as epilepsy (seizure disorder). However, children who suffer a febrile seizure are slightly more likely to develop epilepsy.
A child who has missed some immunisations and experiences a febrile seizure may be at a higher risk of developing meningitis. If your kid exhibits any of the following symptoms of meningitis, seek medical attention immediately.
- a stiff neck
- a lot of vomiting
- in babies, a bulging soft spot on the head
Febrile seizures can be frightening to witness. However, they are fairly common and are not usually a sign of a serious illness. Consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
What to Do When Your Child Is Having a Febrile Seizure?
If you suspect your child is suffering a seizure as a result of a fever, try to remain cool and:
- Place your infant gently on the floor or the ground.
- Take away any surrounding objects.
- To avoid choking, turn your infant on his or her side.
- Remove any clothing from around your head and neck.
- Look for indicators of respiratory issues, such as bluish skin on the face.
- Attempt to time how long the seizure lasts.
If you see your child having a febrile seizure, you can do these steps in order to make sure that your child is in no danger:
1. Protect your child from injury, and do not restrain them.
photo from: British Red Cross
You can do this by taking out any toys, blankets, etc. that might cause harm for your child when he has a seizure. Things that could damage the newborn or toddler when they are suffering a seizure should be moved. To protect their head, use pillows or soft cushioning, such as a blanket or clothing.
2. Reduce your child’s temperature.
photo from: British Red Cross
Remove their outer layers of clothing and any blankets to help them cool down. Fluids like water and juice, as well as the recommended dosage of paracetamol or ibuprofen syrup, will help them chill down. Keep them cool by opening windows and turning down the central heating.
You can also turn on any fans, open any windows, or turn on the air conditioning in order to reduce the temperature in the room and lower the child’s temperature.
3. Once the seizure is over, you should help the child to rest on their side, with his head tilted back.
photo from: British Red Cross
While febrile seizures may be scary, especially for a first-time parent, they are usually not associated with any long-term condition. However, if your child has frequent seizures or if their seizure lasts for a long time, it would be best to take your child to his paediatrician to see if the seizures might be caused by something else.
Here’s a video from the British Red Cross with instructions on how to take care of a child that’s having a febrile seizure.
It is also critical to understand what you should not do during a febrile seizure:
- Do not try to restrain or hold your child.
- Avoid putting anything in your child’s mouth.
- Do not give your child fever-reducing medication.
- Do not try to cool your youngster off in chilly or lukewarm water.
When the seizure has ended, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment to determine the origin of the fever. Your child will be examined by the doctor, and you will be asked to detail the seizure.
In most circumstances, no additional therapy is required. If your child is under one year old and has other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea, the doctor may conduct testing.
The conventional treatment for fevers, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may be recommended by the doctor. Giving these medications continuously is not recommended and will not prevent febrile seizures.
If your kid has more than one or two febrile seizures lasting more than 5 minutes, the doctor may prescribe an anti-seizure medication to be administered at home.
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What to Expect After the Seizure
After a seizure, children may become disoriented or tired and require rest. Do not put off seeking medical attention until your child has back to normal. Give your child no water, food, or medicine until the seizure has ended and they are completely conscious.
Seek emergency medical attention if your child:
- experiences a febrile seizure lasting more than 5 minutes
- the seizure affects only a portion of the body rather than the entire body
- has difficulty breathing or becomes blue
- isn’t reacting normally
- suffers another seizure within the next 24 hours
What to expect at the doctor’s office or hospital
The doctor will ask you to carefully describe the seizure, including how long it lasted and how your child appeared and moved. It may assist the doctor to determine whether the shaking began on one side of the body initially, whether the shaking could be halted by gently holding the trembling body part, or whether the jerking motions remained.
Your child will be examined by the doctor. If the source of your child’s fever is known and he or she is not confused or unconscious, the doctor will usually not order any laboratory testing. If the reason for the fever is unknown, laboratory testing may be conducted to determine the source.
If your child has a regular febrile seizure, they will most likely not require hospitalisation. If your child has an atypical febrile seizure (lasting more than 15 minutes, having more than one seizure in a 24-hour period, or not being back to themselves and alert a few hours after the seizure), the doctor may order tests and keep the child in the emergency room or hospital until the child is safe to return home.
Hopefully, these tips can prove useful whenever your child or any child that you’re taking care of happens to have a febrile seizure. Remember, first aid can save lives.
Image Source: iStock
Updates by Matt Doctor
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