Febrile Seizures

What are febrile seizures?

Febrile seizures are the most common seizures in children. They occur in otherwise healthy children between 6 months and 5 years and are triggered by a fever, which is defined as a body temperature of 100.4° or higher. Febrile seizures are not considered epileptic seizures.

Febrile seizures are more common in children with a family history of fever-related seizures. Genetic testing may be indicated if they are prolonged, have focal features, cluster or recur, or continue past the age when febrile seizures typically occur.

Signs and symptoms of febrile seizures

Characteristics of febrile seizures may include:

  • Stiffening of arms and/or legs
  • Shaking of arms and/or legs
  • Lack of responsiveness
  • Eye rolling or eye deviation
  • Change in breathing pattern
  • Change in color around the lips or mouth (blue, white or gray)

While all seizures can be scary to see, most seizures, including febrile seizures, usually end in less than one to two minutes. After a seizure, your child may be sleepy or confused, but this will improve over the next several minutes to hours.

What to do if your child has a febrile seizure

If your child has a febrile seizure, contact your child's doctor right away. The doctor will review your child’s history, examine your child to look for the cause of the fever, and ask you to describe the seizure.

Depending on your child’s symptoms, the doctor may also order tests, including an electroencephalogram (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or genetic testing. If a serious infection is found, if the seizure was prolonged, or if your child is younger than 6 months, they may be admitted for further observation and testing.

Usually, however, no further testing or treatment is needed, and your doctor will talk to you about the best way to manage your child’s fever. Children that experience febrile seizures typically do not need an appointment with a neurology specialist.

Most febrile seizures are short and don’t cause any long-term problems. Even when a febrile seizure lasts a long time, most children recover completely.

Most children outgrow febrile seizures altogether by 5 to 6 years old. Once a child has experienced one febrile seizure, however, they are more likely to have another. Though fever-reducing medications may make a child more comfortable during illness, they can’t prevent a febrile seizure. If future febrile seizures are likely, it’s important to have a plan in place with your doctor.

Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you feel more confident and keep your child safe.

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