Convulsions or seizures are episodes when a person suddenly becomes unresponsive and shows unusual movements such as becoming stiff, or jerking or twitching. Some children may turn blue, have froth at the front of their mouth, and pass stools or urine. These episodes usually stop by themselves, and once the unusual movements stop, the child becomes floppy and can remain in a state like a deep sleep for anywhere from a few minutes up to a few hours. The child might be difficult to wake, before coming around and becoming their normal self again. For parents to watch an episode of convulsion in their child is obviously a very frightening experience, and many parents fear their child could be seriously ill. Children who have a convulsion, however, are unaware and do not feel pain or discomfort.
What is a febrile convulsion?
A febrile convulsion is a convulsion that occurs in a healthy child, between the age from 6 months to 5 years, who experiences a sudden rise in fever, caused for example by a cold or any other type of acute infection. Febrile convulsions are different from epilepsy: The convulsions are short-lasting and stop by themselves. They generally stop occurring naturally by the time the child reaches school age.
It is thought that in small children the brain is slightly immature in the sense that it does not cope very well with a sudden rise in body temperature, thus producing the convulsion. When the child gets older, the brain better tolerates rises in temperature, and that is the reason why febrile convulsions usually do not occur in children older than 5 years.
Febrile convulsions are very common – one in 30 children in this country experiences a febrile convulsion until the age of 5 years. Febrile convulsions also tend to run in families – often one or both parents of children with febrile convulsions, will have had them themselves when they were children.
Will my child need to go to hospital with a febrile convulsion?
Almost all children that experiencing a febrile convulsion for the first time go to hospital, often by ambulance or via the A&E department.
If a child has had his or her first febrile convulsion, they are often admitted at overnight. The reasons for admission are that doctors want to make sure that they have identified the type of infection that caused the child to have a convulsion, that their temperature is under control, and, also, to reassure the parents and provide them with the information they need to prevent further convulsions.
Can my child have another convulsion?
The vast majority of children have only one febrile convulsion in their life, but it is possible that your child may experience another or more convulsions if he or she gets a sudden rise of fever.
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