Febrile seizures are convulsions or fits that can happen when your young child has a fever. They mostly occur in children between 6 months and 5 years of age and usually last less than 5 minutes. They are common and usually harmless. Most children make a full recovery.
What should I do if my child is having a seizure?
- Stay calm and lie your child on one side with their head turned to the side and keep them away from furniture and heaters. Don’t put anything in your child’s mouth or put them into a bath or shower to cool down.
- Time how long it lasts and dial 111 if:
- the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
- your child has trouble breathing
- the seizures occur more than once in 24 hours
- you are worried.
- Otherwise, take your child to a doctor once the seizure is over to find the cause of the fever.
What causes febrile seizures?
Febrile means ‘relating to fever’. A fever is a high temperature and this can trigger a seizure. Usually, the fever is caused by a viral infection, such as chickenpox, flu, a middle ear infection or tonsillitis.
The chance of your child having a seizure is higher if a close family member has a history of them.
In rare cases, febrile seizures can occur after your child has had a vaccination.
A febrile seizure is not the same as epilepsy.
What are the symptoms of febrile seizures?
During the seizure, your child may:
- become stiff
- lose consciousness
- have twitches in their arms and legs
- wet or soil themselves
- vomit or foam at the mouth
- roll back their eyes.
Afterwards, they may be sleepy for about an hour.
How are febrile seizures diagnosed?
If your child has a febrile seizure, take them to see your family doctor. Your doctor will want to know:
- how long the seizure lasted
- what happened, such as body stiffening, twitching, staring or loss of consciousness
- whether your child recovered within one hour
- whether they've had a seizure before.
Should I get medical help for febrile seizures?
Most seizures stop within a minute or two and don’t need immediate treatment, but do go to your doctor afterwards.
If your child has had a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes, dial 111. They will be given medication and taken to the emergency department.
If you are concerned about an underlying illness such as meningitis, go to the emergency department.
Can febrile seizures be prevented?
You can reduce the chance of a seizure by keeping your child’s temperature down. If your child has a fever:
- take off their clothes down to their underwear
- keep the room cool without having a draught blowing directly on them
- give them plenty of water or other fluids
- don’t sleep in the same bed as them, because you will make them hotter
- give Paracetamol (Pamol) every four hours when they are awake.
Febrile convulsion: Fit with fever information sheet Starship Hospital