Febrile Seizures: No Lasting Damage

About one in 25 children will suffer a febrile seizure, a convulsion induced by fever. Seeing a child endure a seizure is terrifying, but parents can rest assured that febrile seizures are not life-threatening and do not have lasting consequences.

Calm your fears and learn more about febrile seizures from Dr. Lily Tran, a CHOC Children’s neurologist.

Q: Do febrile seizures cause lasting damage?

A: Febrile seizures, in general, do not have any lasting effects or permanent damage. Children often do not need to be treated or medicated with anti-epileptic medications.

Q: Are febrile seizures linked to epilepsy?

A: A febrile seizure is a seizure provoked by a fever. Someone diagnosed with epilepsy has suffered at least two unprovoked seizures in his or her lifetime. A small portion of children who experience febrile seizures, about 2 percent, may go on to have epilepsy. There are also people with epilepsy who have never had a febrile seizure. Some children are simply genetically predisposed to suffer febrile seizures. A close examination of a family’s health history usually reveals that a relative previously experienced such seizures.

Q: Are certain populations of children more susceptible to febrile seizures?

A: Boys are slightly more likely to suffer febrile seizures than girls. Across genders, febrile seizures are most likely to occur in children between ages 1 and 4. However, these seizures sometimes can happen to children younger than 12 months old, and up to age 6. Children usually outgrow the condition.

Q: I’ve never seen anyone have a seizure. What does a child suffering a febrile seizure look like?

A: A child may convulse, shake and twitch. Their eyes might also roll back, and they may become limp and unresponsive.

Q: Can I prevent febrile seizures from happening to my child?

A: No. Again, some children are simply predisposed to suffering seizures triggered by fever. However, parents can work to treat a fever, the impetus for a febrile seizure. If usual at-home remedies do not help reduce a fever, seek medical attention to rule out a more serious illness.

Q: My child has suffered multiple febrile seizures: Should she see a specialist?

A: If your child is younger than 12 months old or older than 4 and is experiencing febrile seizures, your pediatrician may refer you to a specialist for further monitoring. Seek a specialist’s help if your child has experienced more than two febrile seizures in a 24-hour period, or has suffered a complex febrile seizure, characterized by seizures affecting one side or one part of the body and lasting longer than 15 to 20 minutes.

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