I find myself often telling new moms about febrile seizures caused by a spike in temperature. For me, I had never heard of them, but pulling my daughter out of her crib during one is a memory that I will never forget.
That morning, as I screamed call 911, I crumbled to the floor with her in my arms. Her lips turned blue, I frantically undressed her and time stood still. At the time I thought we were losing her.
It sounds dramatic to say that, especially considering that her life was never in any real danger, but at the time I had no idea what was happening as she was convulsing and unresponsive. It was the single most terrifying moment of my life.
The thing about febrile seizures is that no one talks about them despite the fact that it happens in 2 to 5% of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
We have experienced more after the first one and it is just as terrifying, but being educated on the facts and how to deal with seizures has made a huge difference.
What should you know about febrile seizures
2 to 5% of children will experience one in their childhood (The vast majority occur in children over the age of 6 months and end by 5 years old).
While extremely frightening for parents, they are typically harmless.
What causes them?
Febrile seizures are most often hereditary. If you, your partner or a grandparent had a febrile seizure as a child, your own children are more likely to get one.
They are usually associated with fevers over 102° F (39°C) and are often caused by a quickly rising temperature.
What are the symptoms?
They can vary by child, but if you know your child has a fever and they become lethargic, disoriented, have twitching limbs, rolling eyes, are unable to stand or respond to their name it is most likely a febrile seizure.
These seizures may be accompanied by drooling, vomiting or other mouth secretions.
What should you do?
Place the child on their side on a blanket on the floor.
Talk to them in a calm voice and reassure them as their body works through it.
Do not hold or restrain them and do not put any objects in their mouth.
Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 3 minutes or if your baby is younger than 6 months.
The hospital may test for a UTI, pneumonia and order blood work to check for signs of infection.
Make an additional appointment for them to be evaluated by your pediatrician as soon as possible.
Many people also treat fevers with an age-appropriate dose of children’s Tylenol or Advil ( as recommend by you pediatrician).
Other facts about febrile seizures
There is a 1 in 3 chance that a child who has suffered a febrile seizure will have another one, should they get another fever.
Understanding that febrile seizures are not harmful and how to comfort your child, should they have one, can make all of the difference.
In my experience, any time our child had a febrile seizure, no matter how short, we took her to the doctor immediately.
I hope that knowing the symptoms of a febrile seizure and the actions to take will be useful to your family. Medical recommendations are from the Caring for Kids website intertwined with my personal story.