Febrile Convulsions

Febrile convulsions (seizures) occur in 3 percent of infants and toddlers between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. They occur usually during a viral illness and are associated with a temperature. They are frightening but not serious. There is no risk of brain damage, future epilepsy or other medical problems if a child has a febrile convulsion.


What happens ?

Often a parent will here a noise or see a child start to lose consciousness then have classical seizure where the child will convulse. This lasts generally less than 5 minutes and after a short period of drowsiness – about 20mins to half and hour the child will make a full recovery. Sometimes the convulsion can last much longer – up to 20 minutes or more.

An ambulance will be called and usually by the time the ambulance arrives the child has stopped convulsing. Oxygen will be applied and he or she will be taken to hospital for an assessment.

If the child is well, and the source of the fever is simply viral sometimes there are no tests and the child can go home after a short time. If the child is unwell or there are any unusual concerns in the history or assessment blood, urine and other tests are sometimes done and the child is admitted for a short time.

What Can parents do ?

At the time of the convulsion there is usually panic and understandably people can get quite emotional. During the convulsion the child should be kept clear of any obstacles that might cause injury. The time should be noted and someone will call an ambulance. Do not interfere with the mouth or tongue and do not attempt mouth to mouth as children will still breath whilst having a convulsion.

Can children be prevented from having convulsions ?

Contrary to what people believe – attempts at getting a temperature down by either the use of panadol, nurofen, or tepid baths or cool showers have no effect on whether a child has a convulsion. Those children that have lots of convulsions will sometimes be prescribed medication but this is rare.

Can children have them again ?

About 30% will have another febrile seizure at some stage. Occasionally some will have a number of seizures and these will need to be managed by a paediatrician. 

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