Febrile Convulsions Advice Sheet

  • Reference Number: HEY-891/2017
  • Departments: Emergency Department, Paediatrics

Introduction

This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your child’s condition.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your child’s doctor, but may act as a starting point for discussion.  If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team caring for your child.

What are febrile convulsions?

Febrile convulsions, or fever fits are fits or seizures caused by a sudden change in your child’s body temperature.  There is normally a fever of more than 38oC, which is usually caused by an infection such as chicken pox, flu, ear infection or tonsillitis.  Most children with a fever suffer only minor discomfort, but 1 in 30 will have a febrile convulsion at one time or another.  This usually happens between 6 months and 6 years of age.  Febrile convulsions are not harmful to your child and are not a cause of brain damage.  They are, however, quite distressing for parents to witness.

What happens?

During a febrile convulsion your child will usually lose consciousness.  Their muscles may stiffen or jerk.  Your child may go red or blue in the face.  The convulsion may last for several minutes.  When the movements stop, your child will regain consciousness but will probably still be sleepy or irritated for a while afterwards.

During a convulsion

There is nothing you can do to make the convulsion stop.

  • Stay calm. Do not panic.
  • Place your child on a soft surface, lying on his or her side or back.
  • DO NOT restrain your child.
  • DO NOT put anything into their mouth.
  • Try to watch what happens and note how long it lasts, so you can describe it later.
  • DO NOT put your child in a bath (to cool them down).
  • When the convulsion has finished, lay your child in the recovery position (on their side, with their head tilted back).
  • If the convulsion stops in less than 5 minutes, call 111 or see your GP as soon as possible.

Call 999 if:

  • The convulsion lasts more than 5 minutes.
  • Your child does not wake up when the convulsion stops.
  • Your child looks very sick when the convulsion stops.

Will there be any lasting effects?

Most children who have a febrile convulsion will only ever have just one.  About 1 in 3 children will have more than 1, usually during illnesses which cause a fever.  Children grow out of febrile convulsions by about the age of 6 years.  Febrile convulsions do not have any lasting effects.  About 1-2 children in 100 who have a febrile convulsion will go on to develop epilepsy.  This is slightly more than in those who have not had a febrile convulsion.

Can I prevent febrile convulsions?

Unfortunately there is no known way to prevent febrile convulsions.  Giving paracetamol or ibuprofen if your child has a temperature can help them to feel better, but will not stop a febrile convulsion from happening.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please call NHS 111