What is a febrile convulsion?
Febrile convulsions, or seizures, are fits that can happen when a child has a high temperature, usually during the early stages of an infection. Their cause is unknown but it’s thought they may result from the part of the brain that regulates body temperature being under-developed, and therefore unable to regulate. They tend to occur between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, and are surprisingly common – around one in 20 children will experience at least one seizure at some point (source NHS). Those children who have more than one usually grow out of them.
· What does it look like?
Witnessing a febrile convulsion can be alarming for carers. As a paramedic, I see many, and happily, very few are serious. The child usually loses consciousness, and their body may become rigid, often twitching in the limbs. You may see eyes rolling, foaming at the mouth, or the child wetting themselves. Typically only lasting a few minutes, the seizures usually stop by themselves, with a sleepy phase often following.
· What should I do if my child has one?
Try to stay calm. Stay with them, and shout for help. Time the duration of the seizure. Ensure they are in a safe place, to prevent injury, and don’t restrain them. Remove any excess clothing and pop them in the recovery position (on to their side) to protect their airway in case they’re sick. Don’t put anything in their mouth. Remember, they may remain unconscious for a short period after a seizure and/or appear lethargic and confused so it’s important to keep monitoring them.
· When should I call 999?
o If it’s their first seizure
o If they’re having repeated seizures
o If they’re having breathing difficulties
o If it lasts longer than 5 minutes
o If they’ve injured themselves during the seizure
o If you suspect the infection could be serious, such as meningitis
If your child is prone to febrile seizures and they seem ok, it’s still a good idea to seek medical advice. If you’d like to know more about how to care for your child with an infection and fever, please check out my blog ‘fever phobias’.