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Febrile Seizure in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is a febrile seizure in children?

A febrile seizure is a convulsion (uncontrolled shaking) caused by a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. A fever caused by any reason can bring on a febrile seizure in children. Febrile seizures can be simple or complex. A simple febrile seizure lasts less than 15 minutes and does not happen again within 24 hours. A complex febrile seizure lasts longer than 15 minutes or may happen again within 24 hours. Febrile seizures do not cause brain damage or other long-term health problems.

What increases my child's risk for a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizure is the most common seizure in children 6 months to 5 years of age. The following may increase your child's risk for a febrile seizure:

  • A family history of epilepsy or febrile seizures
  • Recent vaccination for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), or diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP)
  • Previous febrile seizure
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Developmental delay or premature birth
  • Maternal use of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy with the child

What are the signs and symptoms of a febrile seizure?

  • Stiff arms or legs
  • Arm, leg, or facial twitching or jerking
  • Eyes rolling up and back
  • Loss of consciousness

How is a febrile seizure diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask what your child's seizure looked like and how long it lasted. Your child's healthcare provider will ask about any recent illnesses or immunizations that your child has had. Also tell him or her about any family history of seizures. The provider will also examine your child. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Blood or urine tests may be done to check for infection and get information about his or her overall health.
  • A neurologic exam is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your child's brain works. Healthcare providers will check how your child's pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check his or her memory. Your child's hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • A lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, is a procedure used to take a sample of fluid that surrounds your child's spinal cord. Your child's healthcare provider will insert a needle into your child's spine. The fluid will be taken through the needle. The fluid will be tested for signs of infection.

How are febrile seizures treated?

Your child may be given medicine to treat the cause of his or her fever, such as medicine to treat an infection. Your child may also be given medicine prevent another seizure if he or she had a seizure that lasted 5 minutes or longer. Your child may also be given the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What should I do if my child has another febrile seizure?

  • Do not panic.
  • Note the start time of the seizure. Record how long it lasts.
  • Gently guide your child to the floor or a soft surface. Remove sharp or hard objects from the area surrounding your child, or cushion his or her head.
  • Place your child on his or her side to help prevent him or her from swallowing saliva or vomit.
  • Remove any objects from your child's mouth. Do not put anything in your child's mouth. This may prevent him or her from breathing.
  • Perform CPR if your child stops breathing or you cannot feel his or her pulse.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child stops breathing, turns blue, or you cannot feel his or her pulse.
  • Your child cannot be woken after his or her seizure.
  • Your child's seizure lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • Your child has more than 1 seizure before he or she is fully awake or aware.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child seems drowsy after having a seizure that is less than 5 minutes.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's fever does not improve after you give him or her medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.