Worryingly many parents don’t know much about febrile convulsions, it’s even more shocking that many parents have never actually heard of them.
Febrile convulsions (or febrile seizures) are fits in children due to a rapid rising temperature. A fever can be the result of the body fightin infection, commonly the flu, chickenpox or even inner ear infections. A febrile fit can cause children to seize up, lose consciousness and go stiff. Their arms and legs may even twitch. Some even wet themselves (this is known as a tonic clonic seizure). Surprisingly they are actually really common, and are normally completely harmless, despite appearing very stressful and upsetting to see. According to the NHS Website, 1 in 20 children suffer at least 1 febrile convulsion at some point in their childhood years.
There are actually 2 different types of febrile seizure. One is a Simple Febrile Convulsion which includes Tonic Clonic fits and doesn’t reoccur with 24 hours of the fever and fit. The second kind is a Complex Febrile Convulsion, a less common kind of fit. The fit will last longer than 15 minutes, has 2 or more fits within a 24 hour period of illness and previous fit, the child doesn’t fully recover from the seizure within 1 hour from the fit and the child is only affected on one part of the body.
But would you know what to do when your child is running a very high fever or during a fit?
If a child is running a rapidly rising fever
As a rule, a child under the age of 5 who has a temperature above 37.5*c is classed as having a fever. Fevers are so common in children, and are normally never something you should need to panic about. But the higher the temperature rises, the higher you begin to worry. Having a good, branded family thermometer in your home is essential, especially when you have children. Willow had a temperature of 40*c last year. While I tried to stay calm, I knew something was not right. I called 101 who called an ambulance for us, and she was taken into hospital for observations. Luckily she was OK, and it was just a high fever. She was back home in the early hours of the morning and gradually perked up. I remember feeling sick with worry, especially as I had to stay at home with our other baby, while my husband joined her in the ambulance. The paramedics advised us how to keep a feverish child comfortable and reduce the chances of a fever rising further, by stripping the child down to underwear or loose clothing, just a thin blanket would be enough to keep her cooler without dropping her body temperature too rapidly.
Skin to skin is also an amazing way to regulate body temperatures in infants and young children. Literally both of you stripping down and placing your child on your chest and cuddling. Keep fluid intake up, with regular sips of water. If you are still breastfeeding, offer them a feed. This not only comforts your child, but the skin to skin will also help the fever, not to mention the antibodies found in breast milk can help fight any nasty bugs, making your child feel ill.
Keep an eye out for dehydration, which can exacerbate any fevers. Look out for dry mouth, sunken eyes, reduced urination and a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby’s head) which are all signs.
If you wish to, try using a child specific paracetamol suspension to help lower the fever, such as Calpol. Never mix medicines unless advised to, and never give Aspirin to a child.
What to do if your child does have a febrile convulsion
Firstly, and it is hard, try to stay calm. This will help your child feel a little more comfortable and reassured. Place the child into the recovery position. If you are dealing with a baby, use the infant recovery position.
Take a note how long the fit is lasting. if the fit lasts longer than 5 minutes you should call an ambulance right away, if the seizure only last a few seconds to 2 minutes, call 101 for advice right away. Its unlikely that there will be anything wrong or any lasting damage but it is always best to be sure and seeking medical advice. Remove any dangers that are around the child, you don’t want them knocking themselves on anything or anything being knocked over, causing possible injury. Don’t try to restrain the child, or hold a finger in their mouth. This can cause choking. If the child has been sick during the seizure, by putting them into recovery position will ensure that any vomit can easily drain from their mouth.
After the seizure
The child will expectedly be upset and scared after a seizure, naturally. The best you can do is comfort them and show them that you are there for them. Don’t offer them any food or water until the seizure is completely over, just to reduce the risks of choking. They may be confused or drowsy and may just feel the need to sleep for a while after, this is fine but try not to leave them unattended just in case another fit happens. Call 101 for advice, and they may send you to your local hospital for a check up for to the nearest medical center. Cuddles and love (as well as medical professionals) are the best medicine, your child will just want you to be there for them.
For more information on first aid for Children and Babies, The British Red Cross run some fantastic courses across the UK. For more information, click here.
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