Fever seizures in children

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Definition

What is fever seizure in children?

Fever seizures (sometimes called fever convulsions or febrile seizures) can occur in children who have a rapid increase in body temperature. You may not even know that your child has a fever. The rapid increase in body temperature in a short period of time may happen at the same time as the fever seizure. After a fever has reached a high temperature, the risk of a seizure is probably over. Most children who have a fever seizure have temperatures above 39°C.

A seizure is likely to be fever-related if:

  • There is one seizure in a 24-hour period.
  • The seizure lasted less than 15 minutes.
  • The seizure affected the entire body, not just one side of the body.
  • The child is between 6 months and 5 years old.
  • The child does not have nervous system (neurological) problems.
  • The child has had fever seizures before.

Fever seizures can be frightening but they are not usually harmful to the child and do not cause long-term problems, such as brain damage, intellectual disabilities, or learning problems.

How common is fever seizure in children?

Fever seizures affect 2% to 5% of children. Children can have another seizure. The chance of another fever seizure varies with age, but about 30% to 50% will have another within a year of the first one.  Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of fever seizure in children?

Simple fever seizures are usually over in a few minutes, but in rare cases they can last up to 15 minutes. During this type of seizure, a child’s whole body may convulse, shake, and twitch; his or her eyes may roll; and he or she may moan or become unconscious. Children can sometimes vomit or urinate (pee) on themselves during the convulsions.

Complex fever seizures can last more than 15 minutes or happen more than once in 24 hours. They may also involve movement or twitching of just one part of the body.

Fever seizures stop on their own, while the fever may continue for some time. Some kids might feel sleepy afterward; others feel no lasting effects.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Seek emergency care:

  • The child stops breathing for longer than 15 to 20 seconds or has severe trouble breathing.
  • A seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes, or the child has a second seizure.
  • Seizure occurs with fever, vomiting, severe headache, sleepiness, not being alert or active, stiff neck, or a bulging soft spot on a baby’s head.

Call a doctor if:

  • It is the child’s first seizure, or you have not discussed with your doctor what to do if there is another one.
  • A child younger than 6 months or a child 5 years or older has a seizure.
  • The seizure affects only one side of the body.
  • A seizure occurs without fever.

Causes

What causes fever seizure in children?

No one knows why febrile seizures happen, although evidence suggests that they’re linked to certain viruses and the way that some children’s developing brains react to high fevers.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for fever seizure in children?

Kids with a family history of febrile seizures are more likely to have one, and about 1 in every 3 kids who have had one seizure will have another (usually within the first 1–2 years of the first). Kids who are younger (under 15 months) when they have their first febrile seizure are also at higher risk for a future febrile seizure. Most children outgrow having febrile seizures by the time they are 5 years old.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is fever seizure in children diagnosed?

The doctor will examine your child and ask you to describe the seizure. In most cases, no additional treatment is needed. Tests might be done if your child is under 1 year old and had other symptoms, like vomiting or diarrhea.

How is fever seizure in children treated?

The doctor may recommend the standard treatment for fevers, which is acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Giving these medicines around the clock is not recommended and won’t prevent febrile seizures.

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.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage fever seizure in children?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with fever seizure in children:

Protect your child from injury during a seizure:

  • Ease the child to the floor, or lay a very small child facedown on your lap. Do not restrain the child.
  • Turn the child onto his or her side, which will help clear the mouth of any vomit or saliva. This will help keep the tongue from blocking the air passage so the child can breathe. Keeping the head and chin forward (in the same position as when you sniff a flower) also will help keep the air passage open.
  • Loosen clothing.
  • Do not put anything in the child’s mouth to prevent tongue-biting. This could cause injury.
  • Try to stay calm, which will help calm the child. Comfort the child with quiet, soothing talk.
  • Time the length of the seizure and pay close attention to the child’s behavior during the seizure so you can describe it to your child’s doctor.

Check your child for injuries after the seizure:

  • If the child is having trouble breathing, turn his or her head to the side and, using your finger, gently clear the mouth of any vomit or saliva to aid breathing.
  • If the child does not need to see a doctor right away, put him or her in a cool room to sleep. Sleepiness is common following a seizure. Check on the child often. Normal behavior and activity level should return within 60 minutes of the seizure.
  • If your child has had a fever seizure in the past and you have talked with your child’s doctor about how to care for your child after a seizure, be sure to follow the doctor’s instructions.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: November 8, 2017 | Last Modified: September 11, 2019

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