Febrile Seizures or Convulsions

Febrile seizures are very common in children between 6 months and 3 years of age. We'll explain what causes them and what to do.
Febrile Seizures or Convulsions

Last update: 09 February, 2022

Febrile seizures are the body’s response to an infection. They’re common in children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. While they last, children shiver, shake vigorously, and eventually convulse.

This is a normal reaction of the brain to the infectious process. However, labeling it as “harmless” doesn’t mean, by any means, that you should let your guard down. If this phenomenon lasts more than 10 minutes and children become stiff-necked and start vomiting, you need to go to the emergency department.

It’s important to note that there’s no medical literature linking febrile convulsions to any clinical problem, such as epilepsy or maturational delay. The processes in which complications have arisen were due to other underlying diseases such as for example, meningitis.

What are febrile seizures?

A woman taking a baby's temperature.

Sometimes, a child doesn’t need to reach 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to experience febrile seizures. However, the most interesting fact to note about this infantile phenomenon is that it occurs with greater intensity in children who are beginning to walk.

  • Although it may appear in some cases at ages older than 3 years, it most commonly occurs after 6 months of age. In case a baby under 5 months of age experiences febrile seizures, you need to take them to a pediatrician.
  • At the same time, the most common diseases associated with this phenomenon are ear infections, colds, or gastroenteritis .

Characteristics

A crying newborn.

We point out once again that, despite the impact of this febrile phenomenon, it’s a harmless reaction in general. Something without transcendence that, even so, we have to control, supervise, and tend to at all times.

It’s very frightening to see a baby convulsing, especially when they’re very young (between 6 and 15 months of age). Experts tell us that if febrile seizures appear at an early age, it’s possible that they may happen again, however, if they appear at 3 years of age, it’s very uncommon for them to occur in the future.

Now let’s  look at the characteristics that accompany febrile convulsions:

  • The child loses consciousness.
  • The child becomes rigid and convulses (either in its entirety, or only the head, arms, or legs).
  • The child’s gaze is lost and their skin turns purple.

It’s undoubtedly a very shocking experience that few parents have been able to forget if at some point one of their children has had a febrile seizure.

What should I do in these cases?

A mother worried if her child is having febrile seizures.

First of all, stay calm. The best thing to do in these cases is to be clear about two aspects: It’s something normal and it will never last more than 10 minutes. Our role in these cases demands that we do the following:

  • Place your baby on a surface where they can’t hurt themself. Put them on your bed or on a large sofa where they won’t fall and won’t hit anything.
  • You should not hold him while they convulse.
  • To prevent choking from possible vomiting, you should turn the child on their side.
  • Put a warm cloth on their forehead or neck (never apply ice to reduce fever).

When the seizures are over, the child will be very tired. However, it’s important that we always take our children to the doctor after one of these episodes occurs.

  • It will always be your pediatricians who will determine what has caused these convulsions.
  • Treating the illness (otitis or cold) will prevent your child from experiencing this phenomenon again.
  • The doctor will give you the appropriate medications to treat the infection. Never resort to self-medication, that is to say, never choose what type of drug to give to the baby yourself.
  • It’s also necessary for your pediatrician to monitor febrile convulsions. If they last more than 10 minutes or if they’re repeated every time the child falls ill, other tests will be done to rule out underlying problems.

However, we emphasize once again that this is normal, something that doesn’t usually recur once children pass the 3-year threshold.

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  • Convulsiones febriles. National institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH). [En línea].
  • Campos, M. Crisis febriles. Protocolos Diagnóstico Terapéuticos de la AEP: Neurología Pediátrica. [En línea].
  • Padilla, E; García, C; Foullerat, S. Convulsión febril. Pediatr Integral 2015; XIX (9): 600- 608. [En línea].