The Facts about Fevers and Febrile Seizures
Why (and when) high fevers and fever-induced seizures are dangerous for babies
According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children.
During a febrile seizure, a child often loses consciousness and shakes, moving limbs on both sides of the body. Less commonly, the child becomes rigid or twitches only a portion of his or her body. NINDS reports that the majority of children with febrile seizures have rectal temperatures higher than 102°F, and most febrile seizures occur on the first day of a child’s fever.
Approximately five percent of children six months to three years of age are prone to having seizures associated with high fever. Most febrile seizures last a minute or two. Some are as brief as a few seconds, while others last for more than 15 minutes. “These seizures can be very frightening to parents and caregivers. Ninety percent of the time the child recovers within minutes with no brain damage,” Dr. Scott says.
If the child does go into a seizure, parents should turn her on her side so she doesn’t choke on secretions. Also, it is important to check to make sure the child isn’t turning blue. Try to make note of how long the seizure lasts and then call the doctor. “A seizure usually ends within less than 15 minutes and there is usually no reason to call 911. But obviously if there are any concerns, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention quickly,” Dr. Scott advises.
NINDS offers additional guidelines for parents to prevent accidental injury during a febrile seizure:
- Place the child on a protected surface, such as the floor or ground.
- Do not hold or restrain the child during a convulsion.
- To prevent choking, place the child on his or her side or stomach.
- When possible, gently remove all objects in the child’s mouth. Never place anything in the child’s mouth during a convulsion.
A few factors appear to boost a child’s risk of having recurrent febrile seizures, according to NINDS. They include:
- being of young age (less than 15 months) during the first seizures,
- experiencing frequent fevers, and
- having immediate family members with a history of febrile seizures.
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