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Definition

A febrile seizure is a convulsion that may happen when a baby or young child has a fever over 100.4° F (38° C).

Causes

A high fever is thought to trigger the seizure. The fever is most often caused by infections. Rarely, some may be caused by fever after routine immunizations.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in children who are 6 months to 3 years old. The risk may last until age 5. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Family history of febrile seizures
  • Developmental delay problems
  • Having a viral infection
  • Recent immunization

Symptoms

A seizure often lasts a few seconds up to 15 minutes. It may cause:

  • Fever
  • Convulsion—jerking or stiffening muscles
  • Eye rolling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. More tests may be done to find the cause of the fever.

MRI Scan
MRI of the Brain

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Treatment

Febrile seizures go away as children get older. The goal of treatment is to manage the fevers that cause them. This can be done with medicines, such as antibiotics.

  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Acetaminophen to lower the fever

A rectal valium gel may be used in children who have repeat seizures.

Prevention

There are no guidelines to prevent febrile seizures.

RESOURCES:

Epilepsy Foundation
http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Febrile seizure. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/febrile-seizure. Updated November 30, 2018. Accessed January 6, 2020.

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 1, 2014. Accessed January 6, 2020.

Kimia AA, Bachur RG, et al. Febrile seizures: emergency medicine perspective. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2015 Jun;27(3):292-297.

Febrile seizures fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Febrile-Seizures-Fact-Sheet#3111. Updated August 13, 2019. Accessed January 6, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 1/6/2020