What Are Febrile Seizures?

As a physician, I have seen many of my own patients have seizures in the ER or in a hospital setting. For the first time, I unfortunately witnessed my nephew experience a seizure this past weekend. It brings a whole new light to what it means to being prepared and knowing what to do since seizures can really happen to anyone at anytime. Equip yourself and your family with the basic tools necessary to help save a life.

Febrile seizures by definition are convulsions associated with a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit in kids 3-months through 6-years of age. They are slightly more common in boys and the peak incidence occurs between 12-18 months. Approximately one third of kids with a history of febrile seizures will have a recurrence before the age of 6. Despite it’s name, a febrile seizure does not mean that your child has epilepsy nor does it guarantee an increased risk of epilepsy in adulthood. Febrile seizures are relatively benign but can be terrifying for a parent or bystander to witness.

What can you do to help a child with a seizure? Whether or not the child is having a seizure due to a fever or from another cause such as epilepsy or a serious infection, the most important thing you can do is to stay calm. Make sure the child has an open airway so they do not choke on vomit or food they are consuming. Lower your child to the ground or place them on a flat surface so they do not fall or have additional trauma from the convulsions. Turning them to the side helps to avoid choking on vomit.

In the rare case that your child was eating while the seizure started, make sure they are still breathing. If they are not breathing or appear blue, this is the time to resuscitate with CPR. Finger sweep their mouth for food/foreign bodies and try to remove the object with either back blows or abdominal thrusts. Have someone call 911 in this situation and continue your efforts to remove the foreign body until the child is breathing again. Have your family take a CPR class at your local Red Cross so that everyone is comfortable in an emergency situation. Seizures can last a few minutes to over 15 minutes, however, it can feel like an eternity. If your child has had their first seizure or if it is a recurrent seizure lasting more than 5 minutes, call 911. Have your child evaluated immediately to rule out causes of seizures before assuming it is a febrile seizure.

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