Simple 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

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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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