Even though scary for many parents, febrile seizures are not usually serious. A febrile seizure occurs in young children during a viral condition in which the fever increases in an abrupt manner. Children who have febrile seizures face a small risk for developing regular seizures but most children who experienced febrile seizures will not develop epilepsy.
Just remember though that these children face a higher risk for experiencing febrile seizures. In reality, some children who have febrile seizures continue to have another one later on. Luckily, many children outgrow febrile seizures by the time they reach 5 years old. It is important to note that febrile seizures are not harmful and will not cause any damage to the brain.
What to do for febrile seizures
In case the child is having a febrile seizure, it is important to stay calm and carefully monitor the child. The best way to prevent accidental injury is to place the child on a protected surface such as the floor.
The child should not be restrained while experiencing a convulsion. You can prevent choking by positioning the child on his/her side or stomach. If possible, you have to remove gently any object inside the mouth. Avoid placing anything in the mouth during a convulsion.
Any object that is placed inside the mouth can break and even obstruct the airway. In case the seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes, you have to bring the child to the nearest emergency department for further treatment. Once the seizure stops, the child must be taken to a doctor to determine the source of the fever. Remember that this is urgent if the child has symptoms of lethargy, stiff neck or severe vomiting.
Medical care for febrile seizures
Even though febrile seizures are not deadly and do not require any treatment, the concern arises when the doctor is not certain that the child is in fact experiencing a simple febrile seizure.
Although a child has a seizure and fever, it is possible that the child is experiencing something else such as meningitis which causes both and fever is not the trigger for the seizure. With this in mind, further testing such as spinal tap might be performed particularly in children younger than 12-18 months old. Urine and blood tests might be carried out as well.
Many children with simple febrile seizures who are not too fussy and appear well after a seizure do not require testing. In reality, other tests such as CT scan, EEG or MRI are not routine performed for children who experienced a first simple seizure.
How to prevent febrile seizures
The only way to prevent febrile seizures from developing is to try and avoid the child from acquiring any sickness which might result to fever in the first place. You can provide a fever medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen at the first indication of fever is often recommended but will not likely prevent a febrile seizure from developing.
Some children who experience a number of febrile seizures are managed with diazepam at the first indication of a fever, but this is not usually needed.