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Febrile Seizures: What You Should Know

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Yesterday we shared a story about one mother's scary account of when her son had a febrile seizure. With the tragic death of Jett Travolta, we asked Dr. Cara to weigh in about the the common occurrence of a febrile seizure -- and what you need to know:

boy having a high fever

Febrile seizures are just what they sound like -- seizures that occur with fever. It is generally believed that the seizure is a function of the rate of rise of the fever (i.e. when the temperature rises quickly) rather than the height of the fever. In other words, if a child goes from 98 to 103 in 10 minutes, she can seize -- but it is much less common to have a seizure if the temperature is rising very gradually, even if it gets up to 105. There are no warning signs per se.

Other seizures happen for other reasons: infection of the brain or the meninges (fluid surrounding the brain) can cause seizures, very low blood sugar can cause seizures, bleeding in the brain can cause seizures, and so on.

Febrile seizures aren't really treated. But parents are advised to give fever reducers aggressively, usually at the first sign of fever, and to repeat them more regularly than they might if their child never had a febrile seizure. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is never given more than every four hours and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) is never given more than every six hours; the dose of both depends upon a child's weight. Parents should speak with their doctors about this. The one other remedy to use cautiously is a lukewarm bath -- it works well to bring down fever if it is really lukewarm, but if it is cold then it can actually drive the fever higher.

There are usually no long-term consequences of febrile seizures, and kids outgrow them between five and six years of age. Once a child has had one, there is an increased risk for another. This is not a rare situation -- between 2-5% of all children have a febrile seizure.


next: Levi Johnston's Mom: "I Am Disabled"
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
MICHELLE January 9, 2009, 1:40 PM

MY SON SUFFERED FROM FEBRILE SEIZURES AROUND THE AGE OF TWO. HE WAS VERY TINY FOR HIS AGE AND WOULD FEEL A LITTLE WARM WHEN I TOOK HIS TEMP., HE WOULD BE AROUND 99 BY THE THE TIME I GOT THE MOTRIN FROM THE CABINET & PREPARED THE PROPER DOSE HE COULD HAVE A SIEZURE. AFTER THE SEIZURE I WOULD GIVE THE MOTRIN(IF I COULDN’T GET IT IN BEFORE)THEN RETAKE HIM TEMP.(WITHIN 5 MIN. OF LAST TEMP.) HE SOMETIMES WOULD BE AS HIGH AS 104. THE FIRST TIME WAS THE SCARIEST. HE WOULD GET STIFF BUT SHAKEY, HIS EYES WOULD ROLL BACK AND HE WOULD STRUGGLE TO BREATH WHILE HIS LIPS WOULD TURN BLUE. I WOULD GET IN A LUKEWARM SHOWER WITH HIM. TO LOWER THE FEVER.
WE WENT THROUGH THIS 4 SEPERATE TIMES BEFORE THE AMBULANCE RIDE AND THEN HE WAS ADMITTED TO THE HOSPITAL FOR 3 DAYS OF TESTING. YES, IT WAS “NORMAL”…HE HAD NO BRAIN DAMAGE BUT THEY WANTED TO PUT HIM ON MEDICATION FOR THE SEIZURES. TAKING CAREFUL CONSIDERATION INTO THE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE MEDICATION. POSSIBLE LIVER DAMAGE/STUNT HIS GROWTH! HE WAS ALREADY TINY. I DID NOT CHOOSE THE MEDICATION! AFTER DISCUSSING THIS WITH HIS PEDIATRITION WE AGREED I WILL TRY TO CONTROL THIS MYSELF BUT IF HE HAD ANOTHER SEIZURE WE WOULD DO THE MEDS.
HE IS NOW 11 AND AFTER MAYBE 2-3 FEVERS A YEAR NOT EVEN ONE SEIZURE! IT WAS NOT EASY AT ALL. TALK ABOUT “MOTHER HEN”, I WAS ON HIM SO FAST WHEN I NOTICED ANY CHANGES IN HEALTH. HE ONLY WEIGHS 70lbs.NOW, I COULDN’T EVEN IMAGINE HOW SMALL HE WOULD BE IF I WOULD HAVE PUT HIM ON THE MEDS.
THIS WAS A PERSONAL CHOICE I MADE AFTER CAREFUL INVESTIGATION INTO FEBRILE SEZURES & MEDS. I WOULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT THE SUPPOR OF MY SONS PEDIATRITIONS. WHEN HE’S HAD A FEVER, HE’S ALWAYS SEEN IN HER OFFICE RIGHT AWAY EVEN WITHOUT AN APPOINTMENT(SHE’S GREAT SUPPORT).




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