Febrile Seizures

What Are Febrile Seizures?

Febrile seizures are the most common seizures of early childhood, affecting 2 to 5 percent of all children. They occur in children aged 6 months to 5 years, and the average age of onset is 18 to 22 months. Febrile seizures often occur when a child becomes ill, usually on the first day, and are caused by a high fever (>102°F). Febrile seizures can occur in any child, but they have a slight tendency to be hereditary. They also occur more in boys than girls.

Febrile Seizure Symptoms

While children with febrile seizures can experience any type of seizure, the most common are tonic-clonic or tonic. The child may cry out at the onset of the seizure, followed by staring and muscle stiffness, muscle limpness, rhythmic jerking on both sides, or jerking, stiffening or limpness on one side.

Febrile seizures are classified as either complex or simple. Complex febrile seizures last more than 15 minutes, are focal at onset, and occur more than once in 24 hours. Simple febrile seizures last less than 15 minutes.

Febrile Seizure Diagnosis

Febrile seizures are characterized by elevated temperature. The doctor will first attempt to identify the source of the fever, examining the child for a possible ear or throat infection. Blood testing and urinalysis may be done to identify the cause of the fever. EEG and other neuroimaging studies are not necessary in simple febrile seizures, but an EEG may be ordered for a child with complex febrile seizures.

Febrile Seizure Treatment

Children with seizures lasting more than 15 minutes should receive immediate medical attention to prevent neurological impairment. Antipyretics (anti-fever drugs) such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are often used to treat the child’s fever.