When fever leads to fits


One minute your toddler is whiny and sweaty with a high fever, the next thing his eyes roll back and he is twitching.

What you are witnessing (probably in horror) is a febrile convulsion.

They most commonly occur between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, especially if they have a fever and a viral infection.

Febrile convulsions are rare in babies under six months old and over the age of six years.

No treatment is usually needed for the convulsion itself, if it stops within a few minutes.

It’s not usually dangerous and your baby will probably recover completely.

A febrile convulsion is not the same as an epileptic seizure, although people commonly refer to both as “fits”.

What is it?

  • Your baby or toddler may look flushed, dazed and then become unconscious.
  • His eyes may appear to roll backwards.
  • Parts of the body may twitch or shake.
  • Your baby or toddler may be sleepy for some time afterwards.

What to do?

  • Lay your child on his side with his head level or slightly lower than the body (the recovery position).
  • Do not put anything into the mouth, but remove anything that could affect breathing, such as vomit or food.
  • Do not shake your child.
  • When the convulsion stops, try to lower your child's temperature to make him feel more comfortable. Give paracetamol and bath him with lukewarm (not cold) water. Do not bath him during the convulsion.

When to call the doctor?

  • If your child does not improve quickly, once a short convulsion is over.
  • A convulsion lasts more than five minutes.
  • Another convulsion starts soon after the first one stops.
  • Your child has difficulty breathing.

It's alright to be on high alert following your little one's convulsion. If your child has quite a lengthy convulsion, they may be admitted to hospital for observation, but if it was the first convulsion experienced, going back to your usual routine shouldn't be a problem.

You should, however, determine the cause of your child's fever and try to break it as soon as possible.

Has your child experienced a febrile convulsion? Did you know what to do? Share your experience by emailing chatback@parent24.com.

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