Convulsions With Fever Febrile Seizures

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Febrile seizures are convulsions that can occur in children with fever.

What is going on in the body?

Febrile seizures occur in 3% to 4% of children who are younger than 5 years old. Fever lowers the seizure threshold in the brain. The whole brain can then “short-circuit,” resulting in a generalized motor seizure.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Fever causes a febrile seizure. This type of seizure is more common in children with a family history of febrile seizures. It also occurs more often in children with epilepsy, a diagnosed seizure disorder.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

This kind of seizure usually happens when there is a rapid rise in temperature. The average temperature at which these seizures occur is 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Some seizures may occur at a higher or lower temperature. During a seizure, the child becomes unconscious. The eyes roll upward. The arms and legs become stiff or jerk. Each febrile seizure usually lasts 1 to 10 minutes.

Diagnosis & Tests

How is the condition diagnosed?

Diagnosis of febrile seizures begins with a history and physical exam. It is important to make sure there is no underlying brain disorder or epilepsy.

Prevention & Expectations

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Any fever should be treated early, but that treatment may not be enough to prevent seizures. Thirty percent of children who have had one febrile seizure will have another one.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Children who have had a true febrile seizure have only a very mildly elevated risk of having epilepsy later on in life.

What are the risks to others?

Febrile seizures are not contagious, though the underlying illness that caused the fever may be contagious.

Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

The goal of treatment is to reduce the fever using acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Children should not be given aspirin unless it is prescribed by a healthcare provider. Aspirin given for viral illnesses increases the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

When a child does have a fever, it is important not to bundle him or her in too many blankets. Bundling up with clothes and blankets may increase the temperature. Anticonvulsant medicines are generally not used if there is no underlying disease, such as epilepsy.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Medications to reduce fever may cause stomach upset or allergic reactions.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

A true febrile seizure generally resolves without problems. The child is at risk for febrile seizures in the future.

How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

Article type: xmedgeneral