About febrile seizures
What is febrile seizures?
Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children.
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 are the symptoms for febrile seizures?
A child having a febrile seizure may:
- Have a Fever higher than 100.4 F (38.0 C)
- Lose consciousness
- Shake or jerk the arms and legs
Febrile Seizures are classified as simple or complex:
- Simple febrile seizures. This most common type lasts from a few seconds to 15 minutes. Simple febrile Seizures do not recur within a 24-hour period and are not specific to one part of the body.
- Complex febrile seizures. This type lasts longer than 15 minutes, occurs more than once within 24 hours or is confined to one side of your child's body.
Febrile Seizures most often occur within 24 hours of the onset of a Fever and can be the first sign that a child is ill.
What are the causes for febrile seizures?
Usually, a higher than normal body temperature causes febrile seizures. Even a low-grade fever can trigger a febrile seizure.
The fevers that trigger febrile seizures are usually caused by a viral infection, and less commonly by a bacterial infection. The flu (influenza) virus and the virus that causes roseola, which often are accompanied by high fevers, appear to be most frequently associated with febrile seizures.
The risk of febrile seizures may increase after some childhood vaccinations. These include the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. A child can develop a low-grade fever after a vaccination. The fever, not the vaccine, causes the seizure.
What are the treatments for febrile seizures?
Seizures are a common event, and 4% of people will experience one in their lifetime. The potential to have a seizure depends upon the threshold of the brain to withstand excess electrical activity. In infants and children, high fevers can cause this threshold to lower, resulting in febrile seizures. A blow to the head can cause an electrical spike causing a seizure, and sometimes seizures just happen.
Parents and caregivers should stay calm and carefully observe the child. To prevent accidental injury, the child should be placed on a protected surface such as the floor or ground. The child should not be held or restrained during a convulsion. To prevent choking, the child should be placed on his or her side or stomach. When possible, the parent should gently remove all objects in the child's mouth. The parent should never place anything in the child's mouth during a convulsion. Objects placed in the mouth can be broken and obstruct the child's airway. If the seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes, the child should be taken immediately to the nearest medical facility. Once the seizure has ended, the child should be taken to his or her doctor to check for the source of the fever. This is especially urgent if the child shows symptoms of stiff neck, extreme lethargy, or abundant vomiting.
Most people get a "freebie" seizure before requiring medication (medication should not necessarily be prescribed for every person who has had one seizure), but that doesn't mean that the event should be ignored. The chance of having another seizure sometime in the future is approximately 20%, and that is the reason why it is required that people need to be seizure free for 3-6 months before being allowed to drive a vehicle (the required time varies between states), scuba dive, sky dive, or participate in other potentially risky situations in which a seizure could put the individual or others in danger.
Generalized seizures are frightening to witness. There is loss of consciousness; the body stiffens, arches, and may shake; and grunting sounds may be heard. But most seizures stop themselves and the role of the Good Samaritan, bystander, friend, or family is to protect the individual from themselves.
Steps to take if you witness an individual having a seizure include:
- The first step is to take a deep breath and try to stay calm.
- Make certain that there is nothing nearby that can be struck by the person having the seizure.
- Don't hold the person down. A seizure is a violent and forceful event, and bystander injury is a possibility.
- Do not put anything in the victim's mouth. A person who is seizing can't swallow their tongue and usually are breathing adequately. Forcing open the jaw can break teeth or get fingers bitten.
- If the individual's seizure lasts more than 3-5 minutes, call 911 immediately.
- After the seizure stops, lay the person on their side and stay with them until they are awake or until medical assistance arrives.
What are the risk factors for febrile seizures?
Factors that increase the risk of having a febrile seizure include:
- Young age. Most febrile seizures occur in children between 6 months and 5 years of age, with the greatest risk between 12 and 18 months of age.
- Family history. Some children inherit a family's tendency to have seizures with a fever. Additionally, researchers have linked several genes to a susceptibility to febrile seizures.