Febrile Seizures (Seizures with Fever): Brief Version

What are seizures?

Seizures are also called convulsions. They are sudden, uncontrolled jerks of the muscles. They can be caused by a fever. They are the most common type of seizure and are harmless. They most often occur when the fever is about 102°F (39°C). But they can occur at temperatures above or below this. A fever can be caused by an infection in any part of the body. A few children will have seizures with hot baths or hot weather.

Each seizure lasts 1 to 10 minutes without any treatment. For most of the children, a seizure from a fever will only happen once in their life. Some have one to three more seizures over the next few years. These type of seizures usually stop by age 5 or 6 years.

What should I do when my child has a seizure?

  • Protect your child’s airway. Place your child on the side or stomach to help drain saliva. If the child throws up, help clear the mouth. Use a suction bulb if available. If your child’s breathing becomes noisy, pull the jaw and chin forward. Don’t try to force anything into your child’s mouth.
  • Reduce the fever. Bringing your child’s fever down as quickly as possible may shorten the seizure. Remove your child’s shirt and put cool washcloths on the face and neck. If the seizure continues, sponge the rest of the body with lukewarm water. When the seizure is over and your child is awake, give the usual dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen for your child’s weight and age.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Control the fever. The seizures usually occur during the first day of an illness. Try to control the fever by giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the first sign of any fever. Continue giving the medicine for the first 48 hours of the illness. Awaken your child once during the night to give medicine.
  • Use light covers. Don’t cover your child with more than one blanket when he is sick. Bundling during sleep can push the temperature up 1 or 2 degrees.
  • Give fluids. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.

Call a rescue squad (911) IMMEDIATELY if the febrile seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.

Call your child’s doctor right away:

  • After the seizure is over.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-10
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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