Your Child & Febrile Seizures: What They Are & What to Do if Your Child Has One

From sniffles and sneezes to complaints of sore throats and aches, as a parent, you're prepared to handle your child's cold or flu symptoms. However, if your infant or preschooler is fighting a high fever, there is one rare occurrence you might not have been prepared for: a febrile seizure. Although rare, febrile seizures are still a possibility, and chances are they will take you by surprise.

Here is some important information about febrile seizures, including what to watch for and what to do during and after the seizure:

What Is a Febrile Seizure?

A febrile seizure is a convulsion that occurs in infants and young children that is often accompanied by a high fever. Generally, these types of seizures occur in children between the ages of six months and five years, although they are most common in toddlers between the ages of 12 months and 18 months.

Although they are very scary for both the parents and children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these types of seizures aren't harmful to your little ones and won't having any lasting effects.

What Are the Symptoms of a Febrile Seizure?

Not all febrile seizures will look the same, although generally, they are accompanied by a fever of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, there are two different types of febrile seizures: complex and simple.

A simple febrile seizure will generally last anywhere from a few seconds to around 15 minutes and will only occur once. A complex febrile seizure can last up to an hour and your child might have more than one in a 24 hour period.

In both instances, your child might exhibit a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Convulsions and twitching
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Your child's eyes might roll
  • Disturbed breathing

Generally, once the seizure is over, your child will seem a little drowsy, or they might just snap out of it and return to their old self.

What Parents Should Do Before & After a Febrile Seizure

Once you notice any of the symptoms of a febrile seizure, it's important to bring your child to a soft, safe spot, such as on the floor, to ensure they don't hurt themselves. Putting your child on their side can also prevent choking. In the majority of cases, the seizure will be over within a few seconds, and your child will return to normal.

Your first instinct during the seizure might be to hold your child or give them fever reducing medication. However, it is important you don't attempt to restrain your little one during the seizure and instead, be there to comfort them once it is over.

After the seizure is over, contact your pediatrician immediately. Your doctor might suggest heading to the emergency room or urgent care, or if the febrile seizure was mild, they might simply recommend giving your child a fever reducing medication. There are no treatments for febrile seizures and in most cases, your doctor will instead try to determine the cause of the viral or bacterial infection that led to the seizure, and treat that instead.

However, if your child's seizure lasts for longer than five minutes, if they are having trouble breathing or aren't responding, or if your child was seriously injured during the seizures, don't hesitate to dial 911, immediately or rush to a walk-in clinic.

The idea of your child having a febrile seizure is scary, but it's important to remember that in most cases, they are completely harmless. If you're concerned about your infant or preschooler's risk of febrile seizures, or have any other concerns or questions, don't hesitate to contact your pediatrician.