Febrile seizures affect approximately 2% of children in the United States, generally presenting in toddlers near age 2, but with an overall range from 3 months to 5 years. They reoccur in about 1/3 of children. This is more likely if the child is less than a year old at the time of the first seizure. They can be rooted in genetics - a family history of febrile seizures is identified in about 25% of cases.
Signs & symptoms
- A sudden loss of consciousness
- Becoming limp with eyes rolled up
- Rhythmic jerking movements of the arms or legs, or the whole body stiffens
- Rapid return to consciousness
- A period of drowsiness or confusion after the seizure
Atypical Febrile Seizures
Atypical febrile seizures are different from a regular febrile seizure. If a child has one of the following, they have an atypical febrile seizure and may be showing early signs of epilepsy.
- Prolonged seizure activity longer than 15 minutes
- Only one side of the body is involved in the seizure
- More than one seizure during the same febrile illness
Children who have febrile seizures have normal neurological examinations after the seizure and generally have no neurological problems and normal development.
Febrile convulsions are not considered to be a form of epilepsy. These seizures are provoked by high fever and are harmless and self-limited, although they can understandably be frightening.
In general, benign febrile seizures are not treated with seizure medications. Management consists of aggressive treatment of fever using Acetaminophen (Tylenol or Tempra) and/or Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), and sponging or bathing with tepid water.
There is nothing you can physically do to stop a child from having a seizure once it has started. Keep in mind:
- It is important to remain calm.
- Do not restrain the child or attempt to put anything in his/her mouth.
- Turning the child to the side is helpful to allow saliva to drain from the mouth.
- Paramedics do not need to be called unless the seizure lasts longer than 15 minutes.
- It is important to notify your pediatrician or nurse practitioner after your child has a febrile seizure, as it may be appropriate to evaluate the child for a serious infection.
If you believe that your child has an atypical febrile seizures, it is important that you contact your pediatrician or pediatric nurse practitioner.
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your child's doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your child's provider.
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