Febrile seizure

Febrile seizures affect around 3 to 4 percent of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.

Overview

Febrile seizures affect around 3 to 4 percent of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. The seizures are triggered by a reduction in the seizure threshold and affect the whole body. This is not a brain disease. Children who suffer from febrile seizures are usually normally developed and healthy. If a seizure occurs, remain calm and protect the child from injury.

Symptoms

  • Usually occurs when fever is rising
  • Eyes are open and rolling back
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Rhythmic muscle convulsions
  • Seizure lasts 2 to 3 minutes, at most 15 minutes
  • Child may vomit afterwards
  • Child may be sleepy after the seizure
We distinguish between

Simple febrile seizure

  • Symmetric seizure affecting the whole body
  • Between the ages of 6 months and 6 years
  • Duration < 15 minutes
  • No repeat seizure within 24 hours

Complex febrile seizure

  • Seizure is confined to one area of the body
  • Paralysis and speech problems after seizure
  • Age < 6 months and > 6 years
  • Duration > 15 minutes
  • Repeated within 24 hours
  • Children with brain diseases

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Unknown
  • Seizure threshold in brain is reduced
  • Risk factors: genetic, family predisposition
Good to know:
  • A simple febrile seizure isn't dangerous
  • Normally no lasting damage
  • Does not increase the risk of epilepsy

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Search for cause of fever
  • Blood test
  • Removal of a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (lumbar puncture), if necessary
  • CT scan (computed tomography), if necessary
Possible therapies
  • Fever-reducing drugs (ibuprofen or paracetamol)
  • If seizure lasts > 5 min: interrupt seizure (benzodiazepines)

What can I do myself?

For a febrile seizure
  • Remain calm and stay with child
  • Note the time (duration of seizure)
  • Loosen clothing
  • Protect child (in particular the head) from injury (objects)
  • Don’t do anything to the child to stop the seizure (shake, bite block)
  • If the seizure lasts more than ten minutes, call an ambulance (tel. 144)
  • After the attack: lay child on its side (vomiting)
Prevention
  • Early measures to reduce the fever once it reaches a certain temperature aren't recommended; they won't prevent febrile seizures
  • It therefore isn't necessary to obsessively measure the fever
General measures to reduce fever
  • Lower body temperature (take off clothes, remove blanket)
  • Fever-reducing drugs such as paracetamol (see package insert for dosage)
  • Don’t apply cold compresses, poultices or wraps with solutions containing alcohol/essential oils

When to see a doctor?

  • Generally after the first febrile seizure
    • Prescription for medication to interrupt a seizure (diazepam)
    • Information about a renewed febrile seizure
  • Febrile seizures that repeat within 24 hours (call emergency number 114)
  • Febrile seizures in children < 6 months and > 6 years (call emergency number 114)
  • Fever
    • Fever in babies up to 3 months old
    • High fever (39 degrees) > 5 days in spite of medication
    • After a trip to the tropics
  • Worsening of general health (call emergency number 114)

Further information

Swiss Society of Paediatrics SGP (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Pädiatrie SGP)
www.swiss-paediatrics.org

Synonyms

febrile seizure, simple, fever fit, febrile convulsion, fever

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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