Febrile Seizures

One of the most frightening experiences of my life occurred in January of 2009.

My husband and I were both sleeping when an odd hiccupping noise came from my one-year-old son’s baby monitor, waking me. I went in to check on him and saw his little body jerking, but wasn’t quite sure what was happening. I called his name and saw his eyes rolled back in his head and paralyzing fear struck me – Nathan was having a seizure.

I’d never seen someone have one before, and to have it be your child isn’t how you want to be introduced to them. However, this is a reality for many families.

The type of seizure Nathan had is called a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures typically occur between the ages of six months to six years, and are defined as seizure activity with a documented fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Dr. Katie Herzog, a pediatrician out of Columbia, SC, febrile seizures occur in approximately 2% of all children. This risk increases if there is family history (either a sibling or parent) of febrile seizures. In my son’s case, he was the first on both my husband’s side and mine, which is why I knew nothing about them prior to his first incident.

One-third of children who have one seizure will have another, but this does not mean they have or will have epilepsy.

“Most febrile seizures are generalized, meaning the child loses consciousness, and shakes both their arms and legs. However, some can be focused where only one side of the body shakes,” Dr. Herzog explains. “These seizures typically last one to two minutes, but some can last longer. Fecal and urinary incontinence may occur during the seizure.”

Nathan’s first seizure was much like the first described. He suffered from a second one a year later while eating lunch at daycare and it followed the same pattern.

If you suspect your child has had a febrile seizure, or a seizure of any type, it’s important to seek medical attention. This is primarily so you can determine the source of the fever and receive treatment. In most cases, the cause is viral, but Dr. Herzog says that doctors like to check for more serious illnesses, such as meningitis.

Often, the cause can be quickly diagnosed, but some situations require further testing like blood work, urine tests, and spinal taps.

If your child is still suffering from the seizure after five to ten minutes, medication will be administered that will force the seizure to cease.

While the seizure is occurring, you should take the same steps as you would with a person suffering from a traditional seizure. According to WebMD, the child should be rolled on their side and any items that could fall or hit them should be moved to prevent injury. You can place a pillow under the child’s head and time the seizure so you can give your doctor the information.

If the seizure results in injury, aspiration, lasts longer than five minutes, or there is no known history of seizures, you should place a call in for an ambulance.

The WebMD article referenced listed four things you shouldn’t do during a seizure:

  • Do not place anything in the mouth – swallowing one’s tongue and choking is a myth; they may bite their tongue, but you can’t prevent this
  • Do not hold the child down
  • Do not attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the seizure is over
  • Do not call an ambulance for a typical seizure – seeking out your traditional health care provider is more appropriate, but make yourself familiar with the last paragraph in the previous section so you know the difference

Dr. Herzog states there have been no studies that show the administration of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or similar products at the first sign of fever will prevent the seizure from happening. She advises parents that if a child is going to have a febrile seizure, they are going to have one, regardless of their intervention.

Despite how frightening these seizures look, Dr. Herzog assures that the vast majority of children outgrow them, and they have no impact on intelligence or their development.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to all parents or caregivers, especially those who’s children have, or are prone to have, febrile seizures. If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to add to the discussion!

Author | Amanda Plavich

Source | Dr. Katie Herzog | Columbia, SC

Reference | WebMD

All material © Modern Bliss, LLC

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