Febrile Seizures

Febrile seizures are convulsions that happen when a child has a high degree fever. Learn the symptoms, causes and treatment of it.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Febrile Seizures
Febrile Seizures
What is a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures are seizures caused by fevers. They are convulsions that occur in young children during a high fever (over 102.2 to 104°F (39 to 40°C) or higher). These seizures happen in children with normal development, with no particular history of neurologic symptoms. The seizures may last for a few minutes and stop on their own. Sometimes the seizures can develop all of a sudden before even recognizing that the child is ill. The seizure can be the first sign of a child’s illness.

Who gets febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures occur in children during the age group of 3 months to 5 or 6 years.  However they are more common during the period of 12th to 18th month of a child’s life. The prevalence is 2 to 5 out of 100 children. A child is more likely to develop if there is a family history of seizures. When a child developed a first febrile seizure when they were younger than one year, they have a 50% chance of developing another. If a child had the first seizure after one year of age, they carry a 30% chance of developing another. Febrile seizures are not considered as epilepsy. However the children who had febrile seizures may have an increased risk of developing epilepsy later in their life.


Simple febrile seizures: This is the most common type and lasts for less than 15 minutes. This type of seizure is not specific to one part of the body and they happen only once in a 24 hour period.

Complex febrile seizures: This type of seizure lasts for more than 15 minutes and is seen more than once in a 24 hour period. This is mostly confined to one side of a child’s body.


If a child has a febrile seizure the following symptoms can be seen.

·         Develops a fever higher than 100.4 F (38.0 C)

·         Loss of consciousness

·         Shake or jerk arms and legs


The symptoms may vary depending on the type of seizure. The symptoms of simple febrile seizure are.

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Roll the eyes
  • Convulse, shake, and twitch all over
  • No arm or leg weakness
  • Vomit or urinate during the convulsions
  • Confusion or tiredness after the seizure

The symptoms of complex febrile seizures include

·         Loss of consciousness

·         Twitching limbs or convulsions

·         Temporary weakness usually in one arm or leg

·         Multiple seizures may happen over a 30 minute period



Febrile seizures happen during a child’s illness. Both a high grade and low grade fever can be a trigger for febrile seizures. Some of the causes of febrile seizures are:

·         Fevers that are a result of viral infections can trigger febrile seizures. The most common cause of seizures is Roseola.

·         Post immunizations fever can also be the cause of febrile seizures.  The fever that accompanies after MMR (mumps measles rubella) immunization can cause febrile seizures.  A high fever is noticed after 8 to 14 days of vaccination.

What to do?

If your child has a febrile seizure, act immediately to prevent injury. 

  • Place your child on the floor or bed
  • Your child should be away from any hard or sharp objects.
  • Do not put anything into her mouth; she will not swallow her tongue.
  • Loosen any clothing around the head and neck.
  • Do not restrain your child’s movements
  • Notice for any signs of breathing problems like bluish color in the face.
  • Keep a track on how long the seizures last.
  • If the seizure does not stop after 5 minutes, contact the local emergency number.

If you notice the following, contact your doctor immediately.

  • Neck stiffness
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Severe sleepiness



Your doctor will clearly evaluate your child and ask for the history of illness. The following investigations may be required to make a diagnosis.

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • A spinal tap – to find the possibility of meningitis.
  • In case of prolonged seizures, EEG (electroencephalogram) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be done.

The cause of your child’s fever will be identified and medication will be prescribed.

For a more serious infection, hospitalization may be required.

Are febrile seizures very dangerous?

Febrile seizures may appear very scary, but they are harmless. Simple febrile seizures do not cause any brain damage, nervous system problems and does not cause any intellectual and learning disability. Febrile seizures don’t indicate epilepsy.



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