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What are Febrile Seizures?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Febrile seizures are seizures which sometimes appear in young children when they have high fevers. Although the appearance of a febrile seizure can be frightening for parents, these seizures are usually benign, and they are completely separate from epilepsy, a chronic condition which is characterized by seizures. However, when a child experiences a febrile seizure, it is important to get medical treatment to address the underlying cause.

These seizures generally occur in infancy or early childhood, and they may happen only once in a child's life, or many times. Recurrent febrile seizures are more common in children with a family history of such seizures, and in children who experience their first seizure at an early age, or who experience frequent fevers. Children with recurrent seizures do eventually grow out of them as they age.

During a classic febrile seizure, the patient may lose consciousness, stiffen, or shake. He or she should be moved to a flat surface away from sharp or hard objects, and watched closely for signs of airway obstruction. The seizure usually lasts less than 10 minutes. Objects should never be placed into the child's mouth during the seizure, and he or she should be taken for immediate medical attention if the seizure persists for more than 10 minutes, or if the child appears to be in acute respiratory distress. Children should also go to the hospital if they experience multiple febrile seizures in a short period of time.

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Certain types of fevers and childhood illnesses appear to increase the risk of febrile seizures, and some of these conditions can be quite dangerous. Meningitis, for example, may be accompanied by seizures. Therefore, it's important to take a child to the doctor if he or she has a seizure during a fever, so that the doctor can evaluate the child's condition and confirm that he or she is receiving the appropriate medical care. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry, and a medical practitioner would rather examine a child and find nothing wrong than be called after it's too late.

If a child has recurrent febrile seizures, it can be a good idea to alert child care providers and teachers to the issue so that they are aware of the possibility when they work with or handle the child. Childcare providers should also be given clear instructions about what to do during a seizure. Children should never be restrained when they experience seizures, and caregivers should not try to cool the child down with medication or a cool bath during the course of a seizure.

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