Febrile convulsions, sometimes called fever fits, are seizures caused by a fever and tend to occur in children.
They’re not uncommon, with 1 in 30 kids experiencing them at some point in their lives.
However, it does pay to understand how to treat febrile convulsions and be prepared on what to do if your child has one. Oftentimes, because parents aren’t aware of what febrile seizures are or how to identify them, their response is panicked and not in the best interest of the child. This article aims to both educate parents on the reasons behind febrile convulsions, and what to do if your child experiences one.
What Is A Febrile Convulsion?
A febrile convulsion is a kind of fit or seizure that is caused by a fever. The convulsions are caused by a sudden change in the body temperature in babies and children, usually associated with a fever of more than 38°C. Now not all children who have a fever will also have a febrile convulsion. Indeed, for most a fever is simply a sign or infection, usually caused by a virus or bacteria. However as we mentioned above around 1 in 30 children will experience one during their childhood, with most episodes occurring between 6 months and 6 years of age.
The important thing to remember about febrile convulsions is that, although they can be quite distressing to witness, when treated correctly they are not harmful to your child and do not cause brain damage. They also do not translate to an increased risk of epilepsy.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Febrile Convulsion
Febrile convulsions usually last two to three minutes but should not last longer than five minutes, and it’s very important for your child’s health that you remain aware of the symptoms they show before and after their convulsion. You’ll be able to tell your child is having a febrile convulsion is they present with:
- a fever
- stiffening of the muscles
- eyes rolling upwards
- jerking or twitching of face and limbs
- blueness in face and lips
Treating A Convulsion
Once your child starts having a febrile convulsion, there is nothing that you can do to make it stop. However, there are things that you can do to minimise the risk for your child.
This is one of the most challenging aspects for parents, but it is so important to stay calm if your child has a febrile convulsion. Your panic only increases the potential risk to your child, and makes it difficult for you to help them.
Put your child on a soft surface, positioning them on their side if possible. A carpeted floor is a good place to put the child, so long as there are no obstacles on which they might injure themselves.
There’s nothing that you can do during a febrile convulsion to make it stop. However, it’s important that you do not try and restrain your child or stop them moving as you can injure them. It’s also very important that you do not put anything into their mouths, including your fingers. Despite what you might have seen in films, your child will not choke on or swallow their tongue.
The most helpful thing that you can do while your child has a febrile convulsion is to carefully watch and make a note of what is happening. You will likely need to explain in detail the convulsion to your doctor, so pay attention. It’s also necessary to time how long the convulsion lasts. If the convulsion lasts more than five minutes, you need to call an ambulance.
Following The Convulsion
Your child’s state following the convulsion will depend on what you need to do next. If your child does not wake up, or looks very sick when the convulsion stops, you need to ring an ambulance. If your child’s convulsion lasts less than five minutes and they were unwell before the convulsion, take them to the hospital immediately. You can cool the child by removing excess clothing, wraps or swaddles, but do not place the child in a bath or cold shower, as this can actually cause them to go into shock.
If there is another adult with you, it is ok to take the child in the car to the hospital. However, there must always be another adult, apart from the driver, to supervise the child in the car in case they have another convulsion. If in any doubt, or if no other adult is available, then call an ambulance.
Observe your child following a convulsion for any further signs that another convulsion may occur or if their fever will not subside – longer or subsequent convulsions may necessitate a hospital stay to ensure the cause of the fever is clear and that your child is protected during their illness. If you’re worried about anything to do with the convulsion, just talk to your doctor and they will be able to provide you with more information on the condition.