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Fever: Fighting Febrile Seizures

Fever: Fighting Febrile Seizures

Many “green” parents are slow to use popular medicines to treat their children’s illnesses, believing strongly in the power of both natural alternatives and the self-healing abilities of the body, along with being wary of the possible side effects of many over-the-counter medicines. Fever, however, is one of those things that shouldn’t be dallied with. In younger children especially, fever can suddenly spike causing a febrile seizure, a very frightening experience.

A febrile seizure is a convulsion in young children, generally caused by a rapidly increased fever, but sometimes caused by infection. This quick jump in body temperature is more than little brains can process, and the result is a seizure in which the child loses consciousness and shakes. These seizures, which usually happen in children between 6 months and 5 years old, are considered harmless and last for a matter of minutes. However, the experience will seem to last an eternity to an uninformed parent going through it for the first time, as fears of brain damage, impending death, choking and a sense of powerlessness invade the senses.

You can reduce the likelihood of your child having a febrile seizure by paying close attention to whether he has a fever when sick, and immediately administering a fever-reducing medicine (such as acetaminophen) at the appropriate dosage and consistent intervals. While cool compresses, beverages, or holding a child wrapped in a cool towel can help provide relief to your child, the fever needs to be brought under control in a way that only medication can do.

Sometimes these seizures happen early in an illness, before you realize a child has a fever. If your child has a febrile seizure, according to the National Institutes of Health, you should:

1. Stay calm and carefully observe the child.
2. Place the child on a protected surface such as a blanket on the floor or ground in order to prevent accidental injury. Don’t hold or restrain the child during a convulsion.
3. The child should be placed on his or her side or stomach to prevent choking. If any objects are in the child’s mouth, they should be gently removed.
4. Never place objects in the child’s mouth during a convulsion; these can be broken and obstruct the child’s airway.
5. If the seizure lasts longer than ten minutes, the child should be taken immediately to the nearest medical facility. (I respect this recommendation, but when it happened to my first child at the age of three, I immediately called a firefighter who lived in my apartment building and then called 911.)
6. Once the seizure has ended, take the child to his or her doctor to find the source of the fever, especially if the child shows symptoms of stiff neck, extreme lethargy, or abundant vomiting.

Many children who have a febrile seizure only suffer the experience once. Once a child has had a febrile seizure, parents are advised to monitor and manage future fevers diligently with medication and to watch for early warning signs such as rolling eyes or tremors until the child reaches the age of 6 years.

Read more: Babies, Children, Cold and Flu, Family, General Health, Health, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Terri Hall

Terri Hall lives in the Hudson Valley with her family. In addition to writing, Terri works with public television and radio stations/networks in the area of new media, and leads workshops on authentic and empowered living.


+ add your own
10:34PM PST on Mar 9, 2011

Thanks for the info.

4:02AM PST on Nov 16, 2010

interesting article... thank you

3:24AM PDT on Mar 29, 2010

Because febrile seizures can be the first sign of illness, it is often not possible to prevent them. A febrile seizure does not mean that your child is not getting the proper care.

Occasionally, a health care provider will prescribe diazepam to prevent or treat febrile seizures that occur more than once. However, no medication is completely effective in preventing febrile seizures.

m3i zero

7:32PM PDT on Mar 17, 2010

Excellent advice. I have a handicapped child that often has febrile seizures when she gets runs a temp. It is really a terrifying experience, especially the first few times, and I'm a nurse. I would only add that it isn't unusual for the child to be very lethargic after the seizure.

11:57AM PST on Feb 24, 2010


2:51AM PST on Feb 15, 2010

thank you for interesting post

2:34AM PST on Feb 12, 2010


8:04AM PST on Feb 7, 2010

Keep vigilant as these seizures can come on very quickly as one did with my daughter. Luckily she didn't suffer brain damage, but it was a very frightening experience to have been through. I can't understand why this sort of advice wasn't given to me in some kind of group talk, and we had to find out the hard way? There should be more open advice on this important issue, as it could save others from going through this tough situation. Good on you for bringing this medical issue to the forefront of peoples minds. Parents need to know about this from the day they bring there babies home from hospitals when they are first born, or taught it during antenatal classes as a basic first aid step.

11:52AM PST on Feb 6, 2010

>>I think it is time to add some facts again to this commentary. First, 104 F. is not an extreme fever, and is not capable of causing brain damage. 107 F or higher is high enough, though as a pediatrician for almost 35 years, I have known of only 4 patients who have had such fevers: one had meningitis (which itself could cause brain damage), one was an infant with pneumonia who was heavily bundled, one was a boy with no sweat glands, and the latest was a quadriplegic child who had severe pneumonia and bloodstream infection (and died). Incidentally, none of these children had a febrile seizure.
>>As to placing an infant prone, it would not hurt to do this during a seizure, just not during sleep.

10:47AM PST on Feb 6, 2010

thank you

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