A febrile seizure is a particularly disturbing complication that can occur during fever episodes. Approximately 4 % of all children experience a febrile seizure at least once in their life, usually between 6 months and 4 years of age. Febrile seizures are due to a predisposition of the brain to react with seizures to a fever, or rather to a quick rising or falling of the body temperature. It is not known yet, whether it is the fever only, or the fever inducing infection, that causes the seizure.
Often the body temperature rises so fast, parents only become aware of their child having a fever when the febrile seizure shows. Most of the time, a febrile seizure develops at a body temperature higher than 102 F, but it could also occur at an increased temperature only. Generally speaking, febrile seizures are harmless and do not cause consequential damages. Most cases are ‚simple febrile seizures‘: The child loses consciousness, the lip area turns blue and muscular tensions or muscle twitching or atony do appear. Simple febrile seizures last for 2 – 10 minutes and occur only once during a febrile illness. As alarming as this incident is for a parent, the child usually recovers fast.
25 % of all febrile seizures are atypical (‚complex febrile seizures‘), meaning that the seizure lasts longer than 15 minutes, multiple episodes occur within 24 hours or other abnormalities arise.
What parents should do in the case of a febrile seizure:
- remain calm
- never shake your child!
- note the start time and keep an eye on the duration of the seizure
- do not give your child food or beverages (danger of suffocation)
- loosen clothing, if necessary
- seek immediate medical attention, call an ambulance or your pediatrician
- take the temperature after the seizure
Febrile seizures do not result in a brain damage, almost all of the patients develop normally afterwards. The risk of being diagnosed with epilepsy is only slightly increased (from 0,5 % of all healthy kids without febrile seizures to 1 %).
Febrile seizures cannot be reliably prevented. Most physicians suggest to consequently bring down temperatures higher than 101 F. However, the effect of such measures is rather controversial.
Febrile seizures often appear when the temperature is rising and therefore can only be anticipated when continuously taking the temperature, e.g. with degree°. Thanks to newest technology advances there´s again a spark of hope to be able to foresee seizures and taking action in time to prevent them.