Child Health
Febrile Seizures

​​Overview:

  • Febrile seizures occur in children when their body temperature gets too high; they usually last for a few minutes.
  • Febrile seizures may occur as a result of the fever caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or as a side effect of some vaccines.
  • Febrile seizures don’t mean the child suffers from epilepsy but increases its risk.
  • Medical attention should be sought to determine the cause of fever.
  • Don’t panic or be anxious; most often febrile seizures stop without intervention in a few minutes.
  • Febrile seizures don’t pose threats to health and don’t signify serious medical conditions.
Definition
Febrile seizures occur in children when their body temperature gets high, without being associated with a brain infection, or otherwise specific cause. They are most common among children aged 6 months - 5 years. Typically ending in a few minutes, febrile seizures occur when the body temperature is 38.9° C (102° F) or higher. 

Names:
Febrile seizures or convulsions.

Types:
  • Simple febrile seizures: They are more common, often ending in 1-2 minutes, although the symptoms may last up to 15 minutes after the episode. The child may feel sleepy but does not suffer weakness in the arms or legs. Simple febrile seizures do not recur within a 24-hour period.
  • Complex febrile seizures: They are less common, and can last for 15-30 minutes. The child may suffer temporary weakness in the arms or legs. Acute seizures may recur more than once within 24 hours or are confined to one side of your child's body.
Cause:  
Febrile seizures occur as a result of the high body temperature caused by a bacterial or viral infection (especially human herpesvirus 6, also known as exanthema subitum or the sixth disease). seizures may also occur as a side effect of some vaccines.
Risk factors:
  • Family history.
  • Recurring fevers.
  • Young age: often occurring in children between 6 months and 5 years of age, with the greatest risk between 12 and 18 months of age.
Symptoms:
The episodes of febrile seizures usually occur on the first day of infection. Sometimes, the episode serves as the first sign of infection. Febrile seizures often occur when the body temperature is 39° C (102.2° F). And the following symptoms can be observed: 
  • Loss of consciousness, and vomiting;
  • Eyes rolled backward;
  • Shake or jerk in arms and legs;
  • Stiff neck;
  • Feeling sleepy or exhausted after the episode.
When to see a doctor?
On observing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, to determine the cause of the fever, especially in cases where the attach continues for longer than 5 minutes.

Complications:
Febrile seizures do not always cause permanent harm or damage in the brain or an intellectual or educational disability. They don’t necessarily indicate that the child suffers from epilepsy either.

Diagnosis:
 The doctor will examine the child, and ask questions about the seizures episode. He may also require laboratory tests to determine the cause of the fever. The doctor will also review the child's medical history and developmental history to exclude other risk factors for epilepsy.

Treatment:
Most febrile seizures stop on their own, and, hence, do not require any treatment. Nevertheless, children susceptible to recurring fevers may need medication treatment.

Prevention:
In most cases, medications meant to prevent future episodes of seizures are no recommended; since the risks and side effects associated with such medications may do more harm than good. This is especially true where the episodes are short and harmless. This should be discussed with the doctor, though. He may need to prescribe such preventive medications in the case of prolonged or recurring seizures. Giving the child antipyretics (e.g. acetaminophen or ibuprofen) for the prevention of fevers is not advisable either. For instance, if the child has flu, but without a fever, antipyretics should not be administered to him or her.

Guidelines for parents on the occurrence of a seizure for their child:
  • Don’t panic or be anxious; most often heat cramps stop on their own in a couple of minutes;
  • Place your child on his or her side, so as not to get choked with saliva or vomit;
  • Don't put anything in the child's mouth during a seizure;
  • Don't restrain the child during a seizure;
  • Keep your eye on the clock, to estimate the seizure duration;
  • Be close to the child, to observe and help him or her;
  • Seek emergency care for a seizure that lasts longer than 10 minutes, or that is associated with stiff neck, vomiting or shortness of breath.
FAQ:
  • Do febrile seizures lead to epilepsy?
Febrile seizures are not a trigger of epilepsy. But the children having seizures are at higher risk of epilepsy.
  • What should I do once the seizure ends?
Take your child to the doctor, to examine him or her, and to determine the cause of fever.
  • Can febrile seizures recur?
The risk of febrile seizures is higher when: 
      • The child is under 15 months of age;
      • The child suffers recurring fevers;
      • A family member (parent or sibling) suffers epilepsy or seizures;
      • The interval between the onset of the fever and the occurrence of the seizures is short.
Myths & Truths:
  • Febrile seizures indicate that the child suffers from epilepsy.
Truth: Not true. A single episode of febrile seizures does not indicate that the child suffers epilepsy. And in most cases, even recurring seizures (when associated with fever) are not a sign of epilepsy. A child with epilepsy may suffer two or more seizures a day, without being associated with a fever. Unlike febrile seizures, epilepsy is characterized by recurring and unjustifiable seizures, caused by abnormal electric signals in the brain.

Clinical Education General Department
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