Febrile seizures can be scary. They are convulsions that can happen when a young child has a fever above 100.4°F. The seizures usually last for a few minutes and stop on their own, but the fever may continue for some time.
“Febrile seizures can look serious, but most stop without treatment and don't cause other health problems. Some kids might feel sleepy after one, while others feel no lasting effects,” says Brian Aalbers, DO, a board-certified, fellowship-trained neurologist with special qualification in pediatric neurology, with Overland Park Regional Medical Center – a part of HCA Midwest Health.
Dr. Aalbers says febrile seizures most often happen in kids six months to 5-years-old. They're most common in toddlers 12–18-months-old.
“Children are more likely to have a febrile seizure if they have a family history of febrile seizures or they've already had one,” Dr. Aalbers says. “About one in every three kids who have had one febrile seizure will have another, usually within 1–2 years of the first.
Dr. Aalbers says that most children outgrow having febrile seizures by the time they are 5-years-old.
“Febrile seizures are not considered epilepsy (seizure disorder). Kids who have a febrile seizure have only a slightly increased risk for developing epilepsy,” Dr. Aalbers says. “If your child has a seizure, your pediatrician can refer them to a pediatric neurologist, like myself, and we can ask questions, do an exam, and order tests to check for epilepsy. Febrile seizures can be scary to see. But they're fairly common and not usually a symptom of serious illness.”
If your child has a febrile seizure, here are 6 things that Dr. Aalbers recommends:
- Stay calm and gently place your child on the floor or the ground.
- Remove any nearby objects.
- Place your child on his or her side to prevent choking.
- Loosen any clothing around the head and neck.
- Watch for signs of breathing problems, including bluish color in the face.
- Try to keep track of how long the seizure lasts.
“If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, or your child turns blue, it may be a more serious type of seizure and call 911 right away,” Dr. Aalbers says.
When to Call 911:
- has a febrile seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes
- the seizure involves only some parts of the body instead of the whole body
- has trouble breathing or turns blue
- isn't responding normally
- has another seizure within 24 hours
Dr. Aalbers recommends that when the seizure is over, call your pediatrician
“It's important to call the doctor so your child can be seen after a febrile seizure. Your pediatrician may recommend the standard treatment for fevers, which is acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but giving these medicines around the clock is not recommended and won't prevent febrile seizures,” Dr. Aalbers says. “If your child has more than one or two febrile seizures that last more than 5 minutes, the doctor might prescribe an anti-seizure medicine to give at home.”
When your child is sick or injured, trust the expertise of HCA Midwest Health to get them back to being a kid again. Learn more about our pediatric services at HCAMidwest.com/pediatrics.