What Is Febrile Convulsion

Most children will suffer from fevers in their lifetime. Fever usually accompanies some minor discomfort including lethargy, poor appetite and upper respiratory tract symptoms. Children in the age groups of 6 months to 6 years may develop seizures or febrile convulsions as a result of having a fever. It can be a really frightening experience for parents especially if their child has never had it before. Parents often wonder what to do and the first response would be to bring their child to the emergency department.

The condition is also rather common. Febrile convulsions have a frequency of 1 in 30 of all children who develop a fever. That being said not all children will develop a fit. The chances of developing a fit or a seizure in children as a result of a fever depends on the time it takes for the fever to rise. The quicker the rise of temperature, the more likely it is for a child to develop a febrile convulsion. Most children who develop a febrile convulsion will have it once in a lifetime but having a first episode predisposes them to having a second or a subsequent one easier. 

Important Signs and Symptoms of A Febrile Convulsion

Parents who’ve seen their child having a fit would be terrified but it is important for them to learn how to recognize one. When your child experiences a febrile convulsion, they usually lose consciousness, stiffen up and jerk quite violently. The convulsion affects the whole body and is described as a generalized tonic-clonic seizure. Seizure duration can be between 1 to 5 minutes. Their lips might also turn blue as they continue seizing. After the seizure, your child will regain consciousness but will remain sleepy or irritated for a while. 

What to Do During A Convulsion?

The first thing every parent should do is to remain calm and not panic. When you start noticing your child developing a febrile convulsion, do the following:

  • Turn them over and lie them on their sides. 
  • Clear surrounding areas or any objects that may become an obstacle to your child while he or she continues fitting. You are responsible to ensure that they don’t acquire any secondary injury from hitting nearby objects during a fit. 
  • Do not attempt to restrain your child while fitting or insert any objects into their mouth. Putting a wet towel over them does not help stop the fit. Neither does putting them into a cold bath. 
  • Allow your child to continue fitting until it stops. Seizures typically last about 5 minutes. 
  • If your child continues to fit more than 5 minutes, call the ambulance.

If your child is having difficulty rousing and recovering from the fever, bring him or her to the hospital immediately. Your child may need to be observed in the hospital and investigated thoroughly to identify the source of the fever. If your child looks very unwell before the fit, visit your doctor urgently. 

After A Convulsion

Usually after convulsion your child recovers well but you need to observe carefully and allow your child to rest while keeping a close eye on them. It must be emphasized that a fever indicates a sign of infection somewhere in the body and is often caused by a virus or bacteria. There is no treatment for febrile convulsion. So if your child still has a mild fever, give them some paracetamol or ibuprofen. These 2 medications do not prevent febrile convulsions. Neither does it reduce the risk of it but it does bring down the fever and make your child more comfortable.

Most children with febrile convulsions do not have any long term health problems and there is no increased risk of developing neurological disorders or epilepsy later in life. If your child has repeated seizures then consider visiting a paediatrician. If you are still worried for some other reason, bring them to the doctor for a visit.