Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

Febrile seizures occur in about 2% to 4% of children, and represent one of the most common neurologic disorders of childhood. The usual age of occurrence is between 6 months and 3 years, and this condition is somewhat more common in boys. There is a genetic tendency toward febrile seizures in some families. In most cases, this type of seizure occurs during a fever associated with a normal childhood illness and, by definition, a minimum body temperature of 37.8°C or 100.1°F is required for a seizure to be considered a febrile seizure. It is important to remember that febrile seizures are not the same as epilepsy. The occurrence of a febrile seizure does slightly increase the risk for having an epileptic seizure disorder. In infants or children whose neurologic status is not normal, the risk for having epilepsy is much greater. Recurrent febrile seizures occur in approximately 30% of infants and children who have had one febrile seizure. The risk of recurrence is greatest in the first 6–12 months after a febrile seizure.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Febrile seizures almost always involve the entire body, causing rigid muscles followed by generalized shaking or tremors of the arms and legs. Carefully protect the child from injury during the seizure. Most seizures stop spontaneously shortly after they begin. After a febrile seizure, a child may appear listless or very sleepy.

If a febrile seizure lasts more than a couple of minutes, treatment should be directed at controlling the convulsion with anticonvulsant medications similar to those used for initially stopping other types of seizure activity. Once a febrile seizure has occurred, the best treatment is to reduce the fever by sponging with tepid water to prevent another seizure.

The DOs
• Monitor your child’s temperature closely during an illness. Rectal temperatures are the most accurate measure of body temperature.
•Treat fevers promptly with over-the-counter infant or child fever medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen every 4 hours).
• Be sure that your child drinks plenty of water or juice during an illness with fever because fever increases the body’s needs for fluids.
• Carefully protect your child from injury during a seizure.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t use ice baths to cool your child if the fever is high. It is better to completely undress your child and continuously sponge him with tepid water.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If your child has a temperature of greater than 102°F that does not decrease with fever medications.
• If a febrile seizure does not stop within a few minutes.
• If your child is too ill to keep fluids down.
• If you notice signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth or a decrease in the number of wet diapers.