Febrile Seizure

A febrile seizure is a type of seizure that happens in a child who has a fever. These seizures typically affect children ages 3 months to 5 years old. But they can sometimes affect children as young as 1 month old. The seizure causes:

  • The child’s muscles to stiffen

  • The child’s arms and legs to shake

  • The child not to respond

Your child may be drowsy and confused for up to 30 minutes afterward. The seizure often starts as the fever is beginning. It can be the first sign the child is ill. About 1 in 3 children who have had a febrile seizure may have another one. Febrile seizures rarely cause any long-term problems. They often stop by age 6 or sooner.

Febrile seizures occur when a child has a fever from an illness, such as an ear infection or viral illness. The seizure is a symptom of the fever. Sometimes infections of the brain or the spinal fluid can also cause fevers. In these cases, the seizure is a sign of a more serious infection. When a child has a fever and a seizure, it's important to see a healthcare provider. The provider can figure out the cause of the fever and make sure there is no serious infection.

Home care

Follow these tips when caring for your child at home:

  • Watch how your child is acting and feeling. If theyare active and alert, and are eating and drinking, you don’t need to give fever medicine. Fever medicine doesn’t stop febrile seizures from happening.

  • If your child is quite fussy and uncomfortable because of the fever, you may give acetaminophen, unless another medicine was prescribed. Don’t give ibuprofen to children younger than 6 months old. Don't give aspirin (or medicine that contains aspirin) to a child younger than age 19 unless directed by your child’s healthcare provider. Taking aspirin can put your child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder. It most often affects the brain and the liver.

  • If an antibiotic was prescribed to treat an infection, give it as directed until it is finished.

  • Until your child gets older and stops having febrile seizures, be careful to:

    • Not leave your child alone in a bathtub. If your child is old enough, use a shower instead.

    • Not let your child swim alone.

    • Follow other measures as given to you by your child’s healthcare provider.

  • If a seizure occurs again, turn your child onto their side. This will let any saliva or vomit drain out of the mouth and not into the lungs. Protect your child from injury. Don’t try to force anything into your child’s mouth.

  • Almost all febrile seizures stop within 1 to 2 minutes. If your child is having a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes,  call 911.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised. Call your child’s provider right away if your child has another febrile seizure.

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of thefollowing occur:

  • Fever does not get better in 3 days after giving fever medicine

  • Abnormal fussiness, drowsiness, or confusion

  • Stiff or painful neck

  • Headache that gets worse

  • Rash or purple spots

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