Febrile seizures are seizures in children caused by a spike in body temperature and are often caused by infection. This condition can occur in young children with normal development without a history of neurological symptoms. Children ages 6 months to 5 years are the most likely to experience this condition. Increased risk usually peaks during the second year of life. Check out the full explanation below.
What Is a Fever?
A febrile seizure is a condition when a child experiences a seizure that is triggered by fever. In addition to fever, this condition can make a child experience colds, flu, or ear infections. In some cases, a child may not have a fever during a seizure but will develop a few hours later.
In addition to seizures, this condition can make a child lose consciousness, hands and feet shaking uncontrollably. While the rare symptoms are eye spinning, the legs feel stiff, twitching only in parts of the body such as arms or legs. Sometimes, during this condition, a child may lose consciousness but will not be seen shaking.
Seizures experienced by a child during a fever are usually in the range of 39 to 40 ° Celsius and occur very quickly. Also note, there are two types of seizures with fever, namely simple seizures and complex seizures. Complex seizures last longer, whereas simple seizures are more common.
Symptoms of Fever Seizure
Symptoms that can be seen are shaking throughout the body and loss of consciousness. Sometimes, a child will experience stiffness and twitching in only one area of the body. Other symptoms are:
- Fever more than 38 ° Celsius.
- Jolt on arms and legs.
While symptoms for simple seizures usually last a few seconds to 15 minutes. The condition does not recur within 24 hours and is not specific to one part of the body. While complex seizures can last more than 15 minutes, occur more than once in 24 hours, or are confined to one side of the body.
When is the Right Time to See a Doctor?
See a doctor immediately after a seizure with the first fever occurs, even if it only occurs a few seconds. Immediately take your child to the hospital if the seizure lasts more than five minutes or is accompanied by:
- Stiff neck.
- Respiratory problems.
- Extreme drowsiness.
Causes of Fever Seizures
Usually, high body temperature is the main cause of this condition. However, mild fever can also trigger this condition. Here are some other things that can trigger, including:
Fever that triggers seizures is usually caused by a viral infection. In rare cases, seizures can be caused by bacterial infections. Influenza and the virus that causes roseola – which is often accompanied by high fever, seems to be most often associated with this condition.
The risk of seizures with fever can increase after the child is immunized. These include diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations. Usually a child can experience a low-grade fever after vaccination. However, it should be understood that the fever that causes seizures is not the vaccine.
The following are factors that increase the risk of seizures with fever including:
Most of these conditions occur in children between 6 months and 5 years, with the greatest risk between 12 and 18 months.
Some children inherit the tendency to experience this condition. In addition, researchers have linked several genes to susceptibility to seizures with fever.
Diagnosis of Fever Seizures
The doctor will carefully review the medical history and development history of the child to exclude other risk factors for epilepsy. In children who develop normally, identifying the cause of a child's fever is the first step after a seizure with fever.
A child who gets vaccinated and experiences this condition, further tests are not needed. Doctors can diagnose based on history. While in children who get delayed immunizations or a compromised immune system, doctors can recommend the following tests to look for severe infections:
- Blood test.
- Urine test.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) needed to find out if the child has a central nervous system infection such as meningitis.
Diagnosing this type of seizure, your doctor may recommend electroencephalogram (EEG), a test to measure brain activity. In addition, doctors can also recommend an MRI to examine the brain if the child has:
- Big head.
- Abnormal neurological evaluation.
- Signs and symptoms of increased pressure in the skull.
- A seizure with a fever that lasts very long.
Treatment for Fever Seizures
In many cases, this condition can stop on its own in a few minutes. However, if the child has a fever, stay calm and follow these steps:
- Lay the child on a flat surface.
- Get rid of hard objects around it.
- Loosen the tight clothes he wears.
- Stay close to children, try to keep it entertaining.
- Do not hold or interfere with his movements.
- Don't put anything in his mouth.
If your child has this condition for more than five minutes, or if the child has repeated seizures immediately go to the hospital to get the right treatment.
Meanwhile, to reduce children's fever, you are usually advised to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen (especially children aged over 6 years). In addition, stick a washcloth or room-temperature sponge to cool it.
The doctor may also prescribe anticonvulsant drugs to be given to children at home. This is done if the child has complex seizures. A dose of diazepam gel inserted into a child's rectal usually stops seizures.
Complications of Fever Seizures
Many parents worry that if their child experiences one or more of these conditions, the child will experience epilepsy when they get older. Epilepsy is a condition in which a person experiences recurrent seizures without fever.
While it is true that children who have a history of this condition have an increased risk epilepsy, it must be emphasized that the risk is still small.
It is estimated that children with a history of simple seizures have a 1 in 50 chance of developing epilepsy later in life. Whereas children with a history of complex seizures have a 1 in 20 chance of experiencing epilepsy later in life.
While children who have never experienced this condition have a 1-2 to 100 chance of developing epilepsy.
Experts recommend that children who experience conditions do not take anticonvulsant medication to prevent future seizures, because the side effects of these drugs outweigh the benefits. Most seizures are short-lived and harmless conditions.
If a child has a fever, most parents will use fever-lowering drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to make the child more comfortable. However, a study says that the drug does not reduce the risk for this condition.
Although most children with this condition do not need medication, children who are susceptible to this can be treated with drugs such as diazepam. This drug can reduce the risk of seizures, although it can sometimes cause drowsiness, lack of coordination, or hyperactivity. Every child has different side effects.
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- Febrile Seizures Fact Sheet. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/patient-caregiver-education/fact-sheets/febrile-seizures-fact-sheet. (Accessed March 24, 2020).
- What Are Febrile (Fever) Seizures?. https://www.webmd.com/children/febrile-seizures#1. (Accessed March 24, 2020).
- Wells, Diana K. 2017. What Is a Febrile Seizure?. https://www.healthline.com/health/febrile-seizure. (Accessed March 24, 2020).