It’ every parent’s nightmare, when their child falls sick. Kids frequently catch a fever, especially in the early years. Matters only get terrifying when they throw convulsions during a febrile episode. Are these fits dangerous? Do they recur later in life? What, if anything, should be done?

What are febrile convulsions?

Febrile convulsions or seizures occur only with elevated body temperatures, or fever, of 38°C (100.4 °F) or more. They tend to affect children between 3 months to 6 years of age, and are the most common in the second year of life. Remember, febrile seizures are not epilepsy, which is a long-lasting, often lifelong, disorder.

These convulsions can be of two types:

  • Simple, which last for several minutes, but not more than 15 minutes. It involves the whole body, which shakes and twists. The child’s eyes might roll. He/ she may moan, fall unconscious, vomit or pass urine during the episode.
  • Complex, where the convulsions last more than 15 minutes, may involve only part of the body and can reoccur within 24 hours.

What should I do during a febrile seizure?

Stay calm and follow these steps:

  • Place your child on his side to prevent choking, and on a surface from here he won’t fall.
  • Do not put anything in your child’s mouth.
  • Let the convulsion proceed on its own, and do not interfere with the movements, or try to stop them.
  • Time the seizure. If it lasts for more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance or get him to the nearest hospital quickly.
  • Loosen tight or restrictive clothing.
  • Remove sharp objects from the vicinity.
  • If your child seems not to recover quickly after the convulsion, seek medical attention immediately.

Are febrile convulsions dangerous?

Majority of these seizures do not cause any long-term effects or brain damage. There is higher risk of injury from falling or sharp objects. Most of these children do not go on to develop epilepsy later in life.
As such, no medication is required soon after or to prevent further recurrences. Your doctor may prescribe anti-convulsant drugs or sedatives, based on the risk-benefit ratio. If in doubt, it is best to consult a child specialist for further recommendations.

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