Paediatric Emergency Department Tel: 01473 702239
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During a febrile convulsion the child becomes unconscious, usually stiff with jerking limbs. The child may appear a little blue around the lips.
Any illness that can cause a fever can cause one. Most occur with common illnesses such as ear infections, tonsillitis and flu. It often happens with the first temperature spike of an infection, and therefore can seem as though it’s come out of the blue.
Seeing a febrile convulsion or seizure can be frightening, but the vast majority are not serious, and there is a full recovery afterwards. Most last a few seconds, and the majority stop by themselves before five minutes.
About five in 100 children will have one and they commonly occur between the age of 18 months and five years.
- Note the time the convulsion started.
- Make sure the environment is safe by removing or cushioning obstructions to protect the child’s head from injury.
- Lay the child on their side with his or her head tilted slightly back. This will keep their airway clear and make sure they don’t swallow any vomit.
- Do not put anything in the child’s mouth or restrain them.
- If the convulsion has not stopped by five minutes, you should call an ambulance.
- It is usual for a child to be drowsy after a febrile convulsion.
Most infections that cause febrile convulsions are caused by viruses so antibiotics are not useful.
There is little scientific evidence to prove keeping a child’s temperature down can prevent a febrile convulsion. They are more likely to be caused by the chemical changes a body goes through after getting an infection that cause the fever, than the height of the temperature itself.
Medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen do not treat the cause of fever, but they can be useful to alleviate the symptoms of fever such as lethargy, aches and distress. Giving paracetamol and ibuprofen quickly will not necessarily stop a febrile convulsion from happening.
Approximately 40% of children who have one febrile convulsion are likely to have another. Once a child is over the age of three, the chances of having more than one seizure becomes less likely.
Febrile convulsions are not the same as epilepsy and do not usually require any further investigations. The usual outcome is full recovery with no after effects.