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Febrile Convulsions

A febrile seizure is a relatively common condition in childhood known as a convulsion which usually occurs as the result of an infection.

Most febrile seizures are triggered by a fever defined as a body temperature over 100.4°F (38C). Most occur well within the first 24 hours of an illness. It is thought that it is the quickness of the rise in temperature, not the actual height of the fever, which triggers the seizures.

About 3-5% of healthy children between the ages of six months and three years will have a seizure caused by a fever, the average age being 18months.

Febrile seizures may begin with the sudden sustained contraction of muscles on both sides of a child's body - usually the muscles of the face, trunk, arms, and legs. The child may fall, if standing, and may pass urine. They may vomit and bite their tongue. While the seizures may last for up to 5 minutes, the child may be extremely sleepy afterwards.

During the seizure, leave your child on the floor. Slide a blanket under him if the floor is hard. Move him only if he is in a dangerous location. Remove objects that may injure him. If possible, open or remove clothes from the waist up.

Turn their face to one side to prevent them swallowing vomit, or if saliva and mucus build up in the mouth, too keep the airways open. This is also important if it appears the tongue is getting in the way of breathing.

DO NOT try to force anything into his mouth to prevent him from biting the tongue, as this increases the risk of injury. DO NOT try to restrain your child or try to stop the seizure movements.

Focus your attention on bringing the fever down. DO NOT try to give anything by mouth. Apply cool washcloths to the forehead and neck. Sponge the rest of the body with lukewarm (not cold) water.

Contact your GP if your child has no history of seizures as the most important step is to identify the cause of the fever.

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