Febrile Seizures

Child experiencing a febrile seizure.

Febrile seizures can affect children when they have an elevated temperature. On this page, we will talk about the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of febrile seizures, empowering you to recognize and respond to these episodes effectively. Additionally, we will discuss what to do when your child has a febrile seizure, helping you to safeguard your child’s well-being amidst fever-related convulsions.

Are you ready to ensure your child’s health and well-being? Schedule an appointment with Pediatric Associates of Austin—your trusted pediatric care provider in Austin, Texas. Let’s work together to keep your little one happy and healthy!

What Are Febrile Seizures?

Febrile seizures are involuntary muscle movements that may occur in young children experiencing a fever greater than 100.4°F (38°C). The term “febrile” refers to a state of feverishness. Typically, these seizures last only a short amount of time and then stop on their own. However, the fever itself may continue past the time of the seizure.

Febrile seizures usually stop without the need for treatment and do not cause any further problems with your child’s health. You may notice your child feeling sleepy after a seizure. There is only a very slight chance of your child developing epilepsy if they had a febrile seizure.

Symptoms of Febrile Seizures

A febrile seizure can be identified by body shaking and a loss of consciousness. In some cases, your child may be stiff or twitch in just one area of the body.

Symptoms of a febrile seizure include:

  • A fever exceeding 100.4°F (38.0°C)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Jerking or convulsive movements of the arms and legs

Febrile seizures can be categorized into two main types:

Simple Febrile Seizures

These brief episodes typically last from a few seconds to 15 minutes. They do not recur within a 24-hour timeframe and are not confined to a specific part of the body.

Complex Febrile Seizures

These are characterized by seizures lasting longer than 15 minutes. Your child may have repeated seizures within 24 hours, and the seizure is seen in only one side of the body.

Febrile seizures usually occur within 24 hours from the start of a fever. They are often the first sign that your child is ill.

Causes and Triggers of Febrile Seizure

Your child’s fever is the principal cause of the febrile seizure. Triggers of febrile seizures include the following:

  • Infection: Fevers caused by a viral infection are one of the most common triggers of a febrile seizure. A bacterial infection causing a fever is another possible trigger of febrile seizures.
  • Vaccination: Some childhood vaccinations can cause fevers that will trigger febrile seizures. These may include vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and measles-mumps-rubella.

Your child is more likely to have a febrile fever if there’s a family history of febrile seizures.

When to Contact Your Child’s Doctor

You should contact your child’s doctor as soon as you can after your child’s first febrile seizure, regardless of how long the seizure lasted. Your doctor will want to rule out other causes of seizures, such as meningitis (a bacterial infection that affects the brain and spinal cord).

If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes and is accompanied by the following symptoms, you must call an ambulance or visit the emergency room:

  • Breathing problems
  • Vomiting
  • A stiff neck
  • Extreme sleepiness

Diagnosing Febrile Seizures

In normal developing children, diagnosis will focus on finding the cause of the fever. Your doctor may also review your child’s medical and developmental history to rule out risk factors related to epilepsy.

If your child is not up to date with their vaccines and they had a simple febrile seizure, your doctor may request blood or urine tests to look for severe infections.

If your child had a complex febrile seizure, your doctor may recommend an ECG or MRI scan.

How Are Febrile Seizures Treated?

Treatment for febrile seizures involves treating the underlying cause of the fever. If your child has a febrile seizure, you should do the following to keep them safe:

  • Avoid restraining the child or attempting to stop the seizure movements.
  • Do not leave the child unattended.
  • Lay your child on the floor in a secure environment clear of furniture or sharp objects.
  • Place a blanket beneath the child if the surface is hard.
  • Only move the child if they are in a dangerous place.
  • Loosen tight-fitting clothing. If possible, they should take off their clothes from the waist up.
  • If vomiting occurs or there is an accumulation of saliva or mucus in the mouth, Gently turn your child onto their side or stomach if they are vomiting or there is an accumulation of mucus in their mouth.
  • Don’t try to insert objects into your child’s mouth to prevent tongue biting. This can lead to injury.

Preventing Febrile Seizures

Most febrile seizures occur in the initial stages of a fever, typically within the first few hours of the rise in body temperature.

Some medication could be used to make your child more comfortable, but it won’t prevent febrile seizures. Recommended medication for the fever includes acetaminophen for children or infants or ibuprofen. You shouldn’t give aspirin to your child unless your doctor instructed you to, as it has been linked to a potentially life-threatening disease called Rye’s syndrome.

Prescription medicine for seizures is rarely used as their potential for significant side effects outweighs potential benefits. Rectal diazepam (Diastat) or nasal midazolam may be prescribed for children prone to prolonged febrile seizures. These are typically reserved for managing seizures lasting longer than five minutes or recurrent febrile seizures within 24 hours.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Are you ready to discuss your child’s health concerns with our experienced team? Schedule an appointment with Pediatric Associates of Austin today and take the first step towards providing your child with exceptional pediatric care. Your child’s well-being is our priority. Contact our office in Austin, TX, now!


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