Febrile Convulsions

Imagine how you would feel if your child suddenly went rigid, became totally unresponsive and started to twitch in front of you. Febrile convulsions are the most common kind of seizure and can be incredibly frightening. They occur most frequently in babies and young children who are unwell and have a rising body temperature, which results in them fitting. They are remarkably common, affecting 2-5% of children under five years.

Febrile Convulsions

Fortunately, most of them will grow out of them and it is extremely rare for febrile convulsions to be life-threatening or cause any long-term problems.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure (the medical term for a fit) occurs when there is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain which temporarily interferes with the normal messaging processes.

Febrile Convulsions

Casualties may have absence seizures where they become rigid and unresponsive or tonic-clonic fits where they thrash around. Seizures can be anything in between.

If a child’s temperature is higher than normal you may be able to help prevent fitting by trying to bring their temperature down.

To reduce their temperature:

  • Take off excess clothing.
  • Use a tepid flannel to gently sponge the child under the arms and on their forehead, providing it doesn’t cause them any distress and doesn’t over-cool them.
  • Give them plenty to drink.
  • Give them Paediatric Paracetamol or Paediatric Ibuprofen.

 

Febrile Convulsions

If your child starts fitting:

  • Maintain their safety
  • Remove any objects from around them to prevent injury
  • Protect their head using a blanket or pillow
  • Time how long the fit lasts
  • Observe any events during the seizure
  • Cool them if possible
  • Loosen any tight clothes/blankets

 

Do not pick them up or restrain them and do not put anything in their mouth. They may bite their lips or tongue during the seizure but there is nothing you can do while they’re still fitting. The fit can last from seconds to minutes. They may go blue and stop breathing (for less than a minute) during the fit.

Once the seizure stops they are likely to be confused and drowsy. They may be unresponsive for a while and need to be put into the recovery position.

Unfortunately, once a child or baby has had one fit, they are likely to have more, so always keep their temperature down during illness. Fortunately, febrile convulsions don’t appear to cause any long-term damage and children grow out of them, usually by the time they are 5 or 6 years old.

 

Phone for an ambulance if:

  • it is their first seizure
  • the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
  • they have another seizure soon after the first
  • they are injured
  • their breathing does not appear ‘normal’ after the seizure
  • they regularly have seizures and this one is different
  • they are unresponsive for more than 5 minutes after the seizure
  • you are worried for any reason

 

Never:

  • put your fingers or anything in their mouth to try and prevent them biting their tongue – this could cause serious injury
  • try and move them (unless they are in immediate danger)
  • restrain their movements whilst they are fitting
  • give them anything to eat or drink until fully recovered
  • try and ‘bring them round’

 

If the casualty is conscious during the seizure, it is most important to ensure their safety, and to reassure them.

 

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.

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