Did you know that 1 in 20 children will have at least one Febrile convulsion (fever fit), at some point? It is brought on by sudden or rapid increase in body temperature, and often happens when you least expect it. There are few things more terrifying for a parent than watching their child have a febrile convulsion, particularly if they have no previous history of seizures. As a parent it is up to you to know more about this condition.
What is a febrile convulsion?
A febrile convulsion is a seizure that occurs with a fever. It is usually related to a fast rise in temperature, not the actual height of the temperature. In some children fever (380 C and above), will trigger a febrile convulsion.
In most cases, a high temperature is caused by an infection or common children’s illnesses such as chickenpox, influenza, middle ear infections or tonsillitis. There may also be a genetic link to febrile seizures; the chances of having a seizure are increased if a close family member has a history of the condition. About 1 in 4 children affected by febrile seizures has a family history of the condition.
Fever fits occur between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. They are less common after the age of 5.
What happens during a febrile convulsion?
A typical febrile convulsion lasts about 1 to 5 minutes. This usually consists of a rhythmic jerking of the extremities, eye rolling, unresponsiveness, sometimes cyanosis (blueish discoloration around the mouth and the tips of the extremities), followed by 30 minutes of drowsiness and confusion. As body temperature normalises, the child may return to his normal self. On occasion a febrile seizure may occur differently; non-convulsive (without shaking), presenting a loss of tone and consciousness or with stiffening of the body.
What to do during a seizure?
A seizure is a scary sight! Try to remain as calm as possible.
- Place the child on the floor and clear away objects that are close to him.
- Don’t put anything in your child’s mouth.
- Move the child onto his side, clear out his mouth if he vomits.
- Do not immerse the child in a cold bath to cool him down.
- Don’t try to restrain his movements.
- Do not leave the child unattended.
- Wait for the convulsion to stop and check how long it goes on for.
Ask for urgent medical help if:
- The convulsions do not stop after 5 minutes.
- Your child is having trouble breathing.
- Your child is not waking up and responding after the convulsion.
What are the long term effects?
Febrile convulsions are frightening, not dangerous. They are not considered to cause any damage to the brain. Studies have shown no difference in intelligence between children who suffer from febrile convulsions or their siblings who do not have febrile seizures. Some recent studies even suggest improved memory function in children who suffer from febrile seizures. Febrile convulsions do not cause epilepsy, but a small number of children who have a febrile convulsions, also develop epilepsy.
Fever fits can be common in toddlers and young children. Contact your medical practitioner immediately after your child’s first febrile convulsion.
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