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Patient education: Febrile seizures (The Basics)

Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate

What are febrile seizures? Seizures are waves of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. They can make
you pass out, or move or behave strangely. "Febrile" means that the seizure is caused by a fever. Febrile
seizures occur in children ages 3 months to 6 years old. They often run in families.

How do I know if my child has a fever? To find out if your child has a fever, take his or her temperature.
The most accurate way is to take a rectal temperature (figure 1). A rectal temperature higher than 100.4F
(38C) is a fever.

What are the symptoms of a febrile seizure? During a febrile seizure, the child usually passes out and
has jerking movements of the arms, legs, or face. Most febrile seizures last less than 5 minutes. After a
seizure, the child might be confused or sleepy for a short time.

Although not as common, some febrile seizures last more than 15 minutes. After a longer seizure, a child can
have short-term weakness in his or her arm or leg.

How can I help my child during a seizure? During a seizure, you should:

Put your child on his or her side

Not put anything in your child's mouth or try to stop the jerking movements

Keep track of how long the seizure lasts If it lasts more than 5 minutes, call for an ambulance (in the
US and Canada, dial 9-1-1).

Does my child need to see a doctor or nurse? Yes. Take your child to the doctor or nurse as soon as
possible. He or she will want to make sure that your child's fever isn't caused by a serious infection. To do
this, your doctor or nurse might need to do tests.

How are febrile seizures treated? If a febrile seizure stops on its own, it does not need to be treated. If a
febrile seizure lasts more than 15 minutes, a doctor might need to use anti-seizure medicines to stop it.

Your child might also get other treatments, such as:

Medicines to bring down his or her fever

Medicines to treat the infection that is causing the fever (if the fever is caused by an infection)
Fluids to treat dehydration (if the infection is causing vomiting or diarrhea)

Will my child have more febrile seizures? It's possible. Children who have 1 febrile seizure have a
higher chance of having another. Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to treat any fevers that your child
gets in the future.

If your child keeps having febrile seizures, your doctor might prescribe medicine so that you can treat your
child's seizures at home.

Does a febrile seizure cause brain damage? No. A febrile seizure does not cause brain damage. It also
does not mean that your child will have a life-long seizure condition.
More on this topic

Patient education: Seizures (The Basics)

Patient education: Fever in children (The Basics)

Patient education: Febrile seizures (Beyond the Basics)

Patient education: Seizures in children (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Treatment of seizures in children (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Fever in children (Beyond the Basics)

All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Aug 22, 2017.

The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice,
diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care
professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of UpToDate content is governed by
the UpToDate Terms of Use. 2017 UpToDate, Inc. All rights reserved.

Topic 16118 Version 5.0


Measuring rectal temperature

Lay your child face down across your lap. Put a dab of petroleum jelly (sample brand
name: Vaseline) on the end of the thermometer. Then gently insert the thermometer into
the child's anus until the silver tip is not visible (1/4 to 1/2 inch [6 to 12 millimeters] inside
the anus). Hold the thermometer in place. A glass thermometer takes about 2 minutes.
Most digital thermometers need less than 1 minute.

Graphic 74460 Version 7.0