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Fever seizures (sometimes called fever convulsions or febrile seizures) can occur in your child and you may not even know that your child has a fever. Most children who have a fever seizure have armpit (axillary) temperatures above 38.3°C (101°F).
A seizure is likely to be fever-related if:
Fever seizures affect 2% to 5% of children. Children can have another seizure. The chance of another fever seizure varies with age, but about 30% to 50% will have another within a year of the first one. These seizures are not a form of epilepsy.
A child who is having a seizure often loses consciousness and shakes, moving his or her arms and legs on both sides of the body. The child's eyes may roll back. The child may stop breathing for a few seconds and might also vomit, urinate, or pass stools. It is important to protect the child from injury during a seizure.
Fever seizures usually last 1 to 3 minutes. After the seizure, the child may be sleepy. You can let the child sleep, but check him or her frequently for changes in colour or breathing, or for twitching arms or legs. The child also may seem confused after the seizure, but normal behaviour and activity level should return within minutes of the seizure.
Fever seizures can be frightening, but they are not usually harmful to the child and do not cause long-term problems, such as brain damage, intellectual disabilities, or learning problems.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Sudden tiny red or purple spots or sudden bruising may be early symptoms of a serious illness or bleeding problem. There are two types.
Petechiae (say "puh-TEE-kee-eye"):
Purpura (say "PURR-pyuh-ruh" or "PURR-puh-ruh"):
If you're not sure if a child's fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing in a baby or young child can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Symptoms of heatstroke may include:
Heatstroke occurs when the body can't control its own temperature and body temperature continues to rise.
Babies can quickly get dehydrated when they lose fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:
You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
Symptoms of serious illness in a baby may include the following:
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
Symptoms of a joint infection may include:
Pain in children 3 years and older
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For children up to 11 years old, here are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth), ear, or rectal temperature
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.3° C (0.5° F) to 0.6° C (1° F) lower than an oral temperature.
Armpit (axillary) temperature
Note: For children under 5 years old, rectal temperatures are the most accurate.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Protect your child from injury during a seizure:
Check your child for injuries after the seizure:
If your child has had a fever seizure in the past and you have talked with your child's doctor about how to care for your child after a seizure, be sure to follow the doctor's instructions.
For home treatment of a fever, see the topic Fever or Chills, Age 11 and Younger.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The best way to prevent fevers is to reduce your child's exposure to infectious diseases. Hand-washing is the single most important prevention measure for people of all ages.
You may feel upset after seeing a fever seizure. Stay calm. You can help your child's doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Ask your child's doctor what you can do to prevent another seizure and what to do if another seizure occurs.
Other Works ConsultedAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Clinical Practice Guideline for the Long-term Management of the Child With Simple Febrile Seizures. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Adaptation Date: 5/6/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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