Tamara Zach is a pediatric neurologist on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (480) 412-7400.
Question: What is a febrile seizure and how I should react if my child experiences one of these seizures?
Answer: Febrile seizures occur in children when their body temperature suddenly spikes, typically from some fever-inducing infection. During a febrile seizure, children often lose consciousness and experience full body shakes. The majority of these seizures last only a minute or two, but can range in duration from a few seconds to 10 minutes or more.
Febrile seizures are the most common type of seizures in humans, usually occurring in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Roughly one in 25 children will experience at least one febrile seizure. While it can be incredibly frightening for parents to witness their child having a seizure, the majority of these seizures are harmless. Simple febrile seizures do not cause any damage to the brain, lead to learning disabilities, or decrease intelligence, according to research studies.
A febrile seizure can be hard to predict, especially since it may be the first sign that a child is sick. So, it's important that parents do not blame themselves for not preventing these seizures from occurring. The best way to prevent a febrile seizure is to control your child's fever by giving ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed by your pediatrician.
If you recognize or suspect a seizure, make sure your child is in an area where he/she won't get hurt from thrashing around, and do not put anything in the child's mouth. Instead, place the child on his/her side so that the child doesn't choke on his/her tongue, saliva or vomit. Also, try to time the seizure. If it lasts longer than three minutes, call 911. If the seizure stops after a couple of minutes and the child is conscious, call your pediatrician. Always let your pediatrician know if your child experiences a seizure.
Please keep in mind that febrile seizures do not indicate epilepsy. By and large, children who experience febrile seizures are no more likely to develop epilepsy than the general population.