Understanding Febrile Seizures

The Symptoms

  • A sudden loss of consciousness
  • Becoming limp with eyes rolled up
  • Rhythmic jerking movements of the arms or legs, or the whole body stiffens
  • Rapid return to consciousness
  • A period of drowsiness or confusion after the seizure

Patient Population

Febrile seizures:
  • Affect approximately 2% of children in the United States, generally presenting in toddlers near age 2, but with an overall range from 3 months to 5 years.
  • Reoccur in about 1/3 of children. This is more likely if the child is less than a year old at the time of the first seizure.
  • Can be rooted in genetics; family history of febrile seizures is identified in about 25% of cases.

Atypical Febrile Seizures

Atypical febrile seizures are different from a regular febrile seizure. If a child has one of the following, they have an atypical febrile seizure and may be showing early signs of epilepsy.
  • Prolonged seizure activity longer than 15 minutes
  • Only one side of the body is involved in the seizure
  • More than one seizure during the same febrile illness

Febrile Seizures - What To Do

Diagnosis: Children who have febrile seizures have normal neurological examinations after the seizure and generally have no neurological problems and normal development.

Febrile convulsions are not considered to be a form of epilepsy. These seizures are provoked by high fever and are harmless and self-limited, although they can understandably be frightening.


In general, benign febrile seizures are not treated with seizure medications.

Management consists of aggressive treatment of fever using Acetaminophen (Tylenol or Tempra) and/or Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), and sponging or bathing with tepid water.

What to Do During an Episode

There is nothing you can physically do to stop a child from having a seizure once it has started. Keep in mind:
  • It is important to remain calm.
  • Do not restrain the child or attempt to put anything in his/her mouth.
  • Turning the child to the side is helpful to allow saliva to drain from the mouth.
  • Paramedics do not need to be called unless the seizure lasts longer than 15 minutes.
  • It is important to notify your pediatrician or nurse practitioner after your child has a febrile seizure, as it may be appropriate to evaluate the child for a serious infection.

If you believe that your child has an atypical febrile seizures, it is important that you contact your pediatrician or pediatric nurse practitioner.

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Understanding Febrile Seizures