Fever Seizures & What You Should Know
By Dr. Santosh Ramaswamy, MBBS, DCH

About three percent of young children may develop convulsions or fits when they have fever. During an episode the child becomes unconscious and the eyes roll back and remain open. The body becomes stiff with jerking of the arms and legs. The child may also foam at the mouth and the skin may appear to be darker than normal. Even though this may be a VERY SCARY experience for parents, this is not as dangerous as it may appear. The child is unconscious and unaware of what is happening and the fit is much more disturbing for those who witness it rather than the child. This is generally a benign condition with no long term problems and is typically seen in children between nine months to five years and most commonly in toddlers between 12 to 18 months of age.

The common abnormal movements or fits are called “Fever Seizures” or “Simple Febrile Seizures”. It is associated with a temperature more than 390C, lasts less than a minute and is followed by a period of drowsiness, usually seen on the first 2-3 days of the onset of fever. The important thing to recognize is that the fit is not a form of epilepsy and most children prone to simple febrile seizures do not develop epilepsy.

1. How do you manage this at home?
  1. At the onset of fever start the child on a paracetemol syrup every four to six hours (do note that it is necessary to use the exact recommended dosage that is based on a child’s weight and other possible medical conditions). Do not use aspirin!
  2. Tepid sponging with warm water (not cold!) if temperature is more than 390C.
2. What to do in case of a fit:
  1. Most importantly keep calm and handle the situation gently.
  2. Put the child on the side with his or her head towards one side so that the child does not choke in case of vomiting.
  3. Loosen the clothes to ensure breathing is not obstructed.
  4. Do not restrain the limbs in case of any jerky movements. Usually the seizure stops spontaneously.
  5. Wait till the child is conscious and alert before you offer any food.
3. When to shift the child to the hospital and investigate further:
  1. If the fits lasts beyond 5 minutes.
  2. The child takes a long time or does not regain full alertness after the attack.
  3. The fit occurs with only a mild fever
  4. Two or more attacks strike within 24 hours
  5. Jerky movements involving only one part of the body
4. Prevention and treatment
  1. Generally no long term medicines are used.
  2. In selected cases as decided by your pediatrician use of an anticonvulsant at the onset of fever prevents seizures to a great extent.
Remember that your child WILL outgrow this illness with age. However, any seizure episode should prompt a thorough evaluation. Consult a physician at ATLAS to rule out any serious alternative causes