Diseases

Febrile Seizures – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Febrile seizure

Febrile convulsions can occur in connection with a high fever , especially in young children . A febrile seizure is accompanied by symptoms similar to those of an epileptic seizure and can lead to unconsciousness in the affected children. In most cases, febrile seizures are harmless.

What is a febrile seizure?

A febrile seizure usually occurs in connection with a high fever. Around four percent of young children are affected. Febrile seizures most commonly occur between the ages of five months and five years. The cause of the fever is not relevant to the occurrence of a seizure and can be quite harmless.

Symptoms of a febrile seizure are similar to those of an epileptic seizure. The body stiffens, in addition to the cramping of the arms and legs, the eyes roll up and the child loses consciousness. The causes of the occurrence of febrile seizures have not yet been clearly clarified.

However, there seems to be an innate predisposition to seizures. Febrile convulsions often occur with a sudden onset and rapidly rising fever. In principle, however, a febrile convulsion can occur in any fever phase.

causes

The causes of febrile seizures have not yet been fully researched by medicine. However, it is suspected that a febrile seizure can be caused by an immune reaction of the body. During illness, certain immune cells release messenger substances that lead to fever.

At the same time, they also cause a change in the metabolism in the brain for a short time. This metabolic change can cause a febrile seizure. There appears to be a hereditary predisposition to the occurrence of cramps. Some children also get febrile seizures after the combination vaccine against measles , mumps , and rubella .

Nevertheless, children with a tendency to febrile seizures should also receive this vaccination, because the vaccination leads to febrile seizures far less frequently than the diseases themselves. Serious illnesses, such as meningitis , can also trigger febrile seizures.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Depending on whether the disease is a simple or a complicated febrile seizure, a number of different symptoms can occur. A simple febrile seizure is usually uncomplicated. Typical signs include muscle twitching , rolling eyes and circulatory problems . If the course is severe, the initial tachycardia and dizziness attacks can develop into circulatory shock, which in most cases leads to unconsciousness in the affected child .

Affected children usually appear sleepy and tired, they often give the impression of being in a twilight state. A simple seizure can occur anywhere on the body and usually lasts only a few seconds to minutes. A complicated fever attack is manifested by convulsions and cramps, which are usually localized. It often lasts several minutes and is an enormous burden for the children affected.

Complicated febrile seizures usually occur several times a day and cause the patient to feel tired, exhausted and confused . This is accompanied by the typical fever symptoms: sweating, cardiovascular problems and a strong feeling of illness. Serious complications cannot be ruled out either. For example, some patients suffer from panic attacks and anxiety.

Diagnosis & History

When a febrile seizure occurs, doctors primarily base their diagnosis on the child’s medical history and the symptoms observed by the parents during the seizure. Typically, a febrile seizure lasts less than 10 minutes and is not dangerous.

In the case of prolonged, complicated seizures, the child’s brain activity is examined using an EEG . If the examination is carried out directly during a seizure, the values ​​in the EGG are changed and show the typical values ​​of a seizure affecting the whole body. After a harmless febrile seizure, however, all values ​​are back to normal.

If there are changes in the measured values ​​after the seizure or if the seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes, it is advisable to clarify the causes responsible for this, since serious illnesses such as meningitis can also cause a febrile seizure. In 90 percent of cases, however, a febrile seizure takes a harmless course.

complications

Febrile seizures usually progress without serious complications. Convulsions that last longer than ten to fifteen minutes are of concern. It is possible that a dangerous infection or poisoning is the cause, which in the course of the disease can cause speech disorders or paralysis, among other things.

If the symptoms are based on meningitis , this can lead to severe brain disorders, organ diseases and finally to organ failure and the death of the patient. In one to three percent of all those affected, a febrile seizure can cause epilepsy. Rarely, HHE syndrome with hemiplegia and epileptic reactions can occur.

In addition, the risk of accidents increases as a result of epilepsy or the convulsions themselves. In infants and young children, febrile seizures are associated with increasing dehydration and various deficiency symptoms that can lead to severe physical and mental disorders. If left untreated, a complicated febrile seizure can lead to serious health complications.

With timely treatment, the prescribed medication carries certain risks. Antispasmodic drugs can cause side effects such as skin rashes, drop in blood pressure, water retention and constipation . For allergy sufferers there is a risk of an allergic shock . A febrile seizure should be clarified by a doctor in any case due to the possible complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the worst case, a febrile seizure can lead to the death of the person concerned and should therefore always be examined by a doctor. Especially in children, these spasms can be very dangerous and usually require medical attention. The doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from a high fever and cramps in the muscles. Various muscles can be affected, so that normal movement of the affected person is often not possible. If the person concerned loses consciousness due to the febrile seizure, an ambulance must be called or the hospital must be visited.

Until the emergency doctor arrives, the patient must be placed in a stable lateral position and, if necessary, given emergency ventilation. Rolling your eyes can also indicate a febrile seizure and should be investigated. These cramps often only last a few minutes and are not dangerous. A visit to the doctor is necessary if the cramps last longer than ten minutes and occur more frequently. Treatment can be given in a hospital or by a general practitioner or paediatrician . In most cases, the course of the disease is positive as a result of taking medication.

Treatment & Therapy

In most cases, a febrile seizure ends by itself without treatment. The therapy then consists of treating the fever with antipyretics . Febrile seizures usually progress without serious complications. Convulsions that last longer than ten to fifteen minutes are of concern.

It is possible that a dangerous infection or poisoning is the cause, which in the course of the disease can cause speech disorders or paralysis, among other things. If the symptoms are based on meningitis, this can lead to severe brain disorders, organ diseases and finally to organ failure and the death of the patient. In one to three percent of all those affected, a febrile seizure can cause epilepsy.

Rarely, HHE syndrome with hemiplegia and epileptic reactions can also occur. In addition, the risk of accidents increases as a result of epilepsy or the convulsions themselves. In infants and young children, febrile seizures are associated with increasing dehydration and various deficiency symptoms that can lead to severe physical and mental disorders.

If left untreated, a complicated febrile seizure can lead to serious health complications. With timely treatment, the prescribed medication carries certain risks. Antispasmodic drugs can cause side effects such as skin rashes, drop in blood pressure, water retention and constipation.

People with allergies run the risk of an allergic shock. A febrile seizure should be clarified by a doctor in any case due to the possible complications. In the case of an existing febrile seizure, care should be taken first and foremost to ensure that the child with the seizure cannot injure itself.

If the febrile seizure lasts longer than two minutes, anticonvulsants such as diazepam can be given. If the spasm persists, an ambulance should be called. Seizure prophylaxis should be carried out in children who suffer more frequently from febrile seizures in order to reduce the risk of febrile seizures again.

As a rule, these children are given an antispasmodic drug for any illness that is accompanied by fever. In most cases, this can prevent a febrile seizure from occurring again.

Outlook & Forecast

Since the cause of a febrile seizure lies in dehydration and, as a result, in a spontaneous discharge of cerebral neurons, the fear of developing epilepsy is justified, since spontaneous discharge also occurs in the brain. However, the prognosis after a febrile seizure is good.

Only one in three children can suffer from further febrile seizures in the course of their child’s life, since the reaction in the brain to an increase in temperature is a complex and unchangeable pattern during certain developmental processes. Every febrile seizure should be evaluated by a doctor, since not only the cause, such as meningitis , but also complications, such as a laceration, must be clarified and, if necessary, treated.

Only about every 100th child who suffers from a febrile seizure develops epilepsy later in life. However, important influencing factors play a decisive role here. Febrile convulsions in infants, epilepsy in the close family and a generally noticeable mental development are criteria that can promote the development of epilepsy.

In general, febrile seizures cannot be prevented, but it is advisable to tolerate temperature rises only up to 38.5 degrees Celsius and then to treat them. In many cases, this can minimize the risk. The prophylactic administration of anticonvulsant drugs is not advisable, since the side effects are disproportionate to the benefit.

prevention

Preventive measures against the occurrence of febrile seizures should always be taken if there is an increased risk. This may be the case if the child has had a febrile seizure before. But even if there is a family history of febrile seizures, preventive measures should be considered.

In these cases, any fever that occurs should be treated immediately with antipyretic drugs. In children, this is usually done with the help of fever suppositories. An antiepileptic can also be administered prophylactically, thus avoiding febrile convulsions in the case of febrile illnesses.

aftercare

A febrile seizure must first and foremost be treated immediately by a doctor. If left untreated, this can lead to severe complications or other symptoms and usually also to a worsening of the symptoms, so that the focus is always on early detection and treatment of this disease. In the worst case, the person affected can even die if the febrile seizure is ignored and not treated.

The aftercare measures are usually always based on the treatment of the underlying disease that is responsible for the febrile seizure. Immediate treatment by a doctor is necessary, especially for children. The treatment itself is carried out with the help of medication that can reduce the fever. These medications should be taken as directed by a doctor to help relieve symptoms.

If the febrile seizure persists after a few days, you should definitely see a doctor again. In the case of serious complaints, a hospital can be visited directly or an ambulance can be called. In general, when a febrile seizure occurs, the sufferer should rest and rest their body.

You can do that yourself

If a febrile seizure occurs for the first time, the emergency doctor should be called in. Most of the time, however, the symptoms go away on their own. It is important to protect the person concerned from injuries (e.g. from sharp edges or corners) and to calm them down if possible. If the person concerned vomits, they must be placed in the stable side position . In less severe cases, gently lying up on the bed or a soft blanket is sufficient. It is also best to loosen your clothes and cool your body with calf wraps .

Children who have a febrile seizure can be given a fever suppository (acetaminophen or ibuprofen ) . Adults can take antipyretic drugs. During the initial cramp, attention should also be paid to serious symptoms and help should be sought if necessary. Usually, however, the febrile seizure goes away within a few minutes.

After the febrile seizure, the following applies: measure the body temperature at intervals of two to three hours and look out for the first signs of a renewed spasm. The person affected should also drink plenty of water and take it easy. After the recovery period, a doctor should be consulted. In the case of regular febrile seizures, the doctor can prescribe an antispasmodic as a precautionary measure, which can be used in an emergency.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.