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Febrile Seizures

Dr. M. Vijayalakshmi, M.D (Peds), M.D (USA), F.A.A.P

"Content Source: American Academy of Pediatrics"

What are Febrile Seizures?

Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children. During a febrile seizure, a child often loses consciousness and shakes, moving limbs on both sides of the body. Less commonly, the child becomes rigid or has twitches in only a portion of the body, such as an arm or a leg, or on the right or the left side only. Most febrile seizures last a minute or two, although some can be as brief as a few seconds while others last for more than 15 minutes.

What do I do if my child has a febrile seizure?

In some children, fevers can trigger seizures. A febrile seizure usually happens during the first few hours of a fever.

If your child has a febrile seizure, act immediately to prevent injury.

  • Place her on the floor or bed away from any hard or sharp objects.
  • Turn her head to the side so that any saliva or vomit can drain from her mouth.
  • Do not put anything into her mouth; she will not swallow her tongue.
  • Call your pediatrician.

How common are febrile seizures?

Approximately one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure, and more than one-third of these children will have additional febrile seizures before they outgrow the tendency to have them. Febrile seizures usually occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and are particularly common in toddlers. Children rarely develop their first febrile seizure before the age of 6 months or after 3 years of age. The older a child is when the first febrile seizure occurs, the less likely that child is to have more.

What makes a child prone to recurrent febrile seizures?

A few factors appear to boost a child's risk of having recurrent febrile seizures, including young age (less than 15 months) during the first seizure, frequent fevers, and having immediate family members with a history of febrile seizures. If the seizure occurs soon after a fever has begun or when the temperature is relatively low, the risk of recurrence is higher. A long initial febrile seizure does not substantially boost the risk of recurrent febrile seizures, either brief or long.

What is the Treatment for Febrile Seizures?

If your child has a febrile seizure, call your pediatrician right away. He or she will want to examine your child in order to determine the cause of your child's fever. It is more important to determine and treat the cause of the fever rather than the seizure. A spinal tap may be done to be sure your child does not have a serious infection like meningitis, especially if your child is younger than 1 year of age.

In general, physicians do not recommend treatment of a simple febrile seizure with preventive medications. However, this should be discussed with your pediatrician. In cases of prolonged or repeated seizures, the recommendation may be different.

Anti-fever drugs like Paracetamol can help lower a fever, but they do not prevent febrile seizures. Your pediatrician will talk to you about the best ways to take care of your child's fever.

What are the long term effects of Febrile Seizures?

If your child has had a febrile seizure, do not fear the worst. These types of seizures are not dangerous to your child and do not cause long-term health problems. While febrile seizures may be very scary, they are harmless to the child. Febrile seizures do not cause brain damage, nervous system problems, paralysis, mental retardation, or death.


If you have concerns about this issue or anything related to your child's health, talk to your pediatrician.