Pronounced: FEEB-ril SEE-zherz
A febrile seizure is a convulsion (shaking, twitching, muscle tightness) or fainting associated with a fever. A febrile seizure occurs in infants or small children. This seizure is not associated with any other illness or medical condition except the fever.
There are 2 types of febrile seizures:
Febrile seizures can be alarming. Fortunately, children tend to outgrow these seizures. There is also a low risk for long-term physical or mental disorders.
High body temperature due to a fever is believed to trigger the seizure. The fever is most often caused by common viral infections. Some febrile seizures may be caused by fever after routine immunizations.
Age is the greatest risk factor. Febrile seizures occur between ages 3 months and 5 years. Most febrile seizures occur in children between ages 6 months and 3 years. In general, the younger the age that the first febrile seizure occurs, the more likely it is that a child will have another seizure.
There is some evidence that febrile seizures may run in families.
A seizure typically lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. Signs of a febrile seizure include:
If you suspect your child is having a febrile seizure, stay calm and follow these steps:
Febrile seizure is diagnosed based on information about the seizure and your child's health.
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your child's head. This can be done with:
Your child's brain function may be tested. This can be done with an electroencephalogram (EEG).
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Children will eventually outgrow febrile seizures. The treatment goal is to manage fevers that may cause seizures. This may be done by treating the underlying infection. The treatments may include medication.
To address the underlying cause of fever, your child's doctor may advise:
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reyes syndrome. Ask your doctor which medications are safe for your child.
Your doctor may advise a rectal valium gel. This gel can interrupt seizures. It may be recommended if your child has frequent seizures and the seizure lasts more than 4-5 minutes.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Paediatric Society—Caring for Kids
Febrile seizure. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113623/Febrile-seizure. Updated March 22, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Febrile seizures: what every parent should know. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/febrile-seizures.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed September 14, 2015.
Mewasingh LD. Febrile seizures. Am Fam Phys. 2008; 78(10):1199-1200
NINDS febrile seizures information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/febrile_seizures/febrile_seizures.htm. Updated July 17, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2015.
Strengell T, Uhari M, et al. Antipyretic agents preventing recurrences of febrile seizures: randomized controlled trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Sep;163(9):799-804.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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