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Febrile Seizures- what to expect and what to do

I’m Emily and I run Mini First Aid Warwickshire. I’ve been running first aid sessions for parents and grandparents for nearly 5 years now, and more often than not, when a parent attends our class it is the first time they have ever heard of febrile seizures. Whilst we don't want to frighten parents, we feel it’s better to know it and not need it than to need it and not know it when it comes to first aid knowledge and skills. After all, if your child experiences a febrile seizure and you have never heard of them, it is likely to be a very distressing experience and they are surprisingly common, with 1 in 30 children experiencing a febrile seizure before they are four.

What is a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures (also known as febrile convulsions) are fits that can happen when a child has a fever. They are most likely to occur between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, as babies and children of this age aren’t able to regulate their body temperature very well as their brain is not yet fully developed. 

Illnesses such as chicken pox, flu, ear infections, urinary tract infections and tonsilitis often cause a fever and this may result in a febrile seizure occuring.

What happens during a seizure?

When a baby or child experiences a febrile seizure, their body usually goes stiff and twitches or jolts (sometimes violently) in a spasm, and during this time they will be unconscious. Sometimes the child will be sick, foam at the mouth and their eyes may roll back. The seizure usually lasts for less than 5 minutes. After the seizure, your child may be sleepy for up to an hour. A straightforward febrile seizure like this will only happen once during an illness.



How should you react to a febrile seizure?

  • As best you can, stay calm and remember this is just the way in which the body reacts to an unusually high temperature and they are very unlikely to have any lasting effects resulting from a febrile seizure.

  • Protect the baby/child from injury by placing a blanket/towel under their head if they’re lying on the floor, and ensure they don’t bang their limbs or head against surrounding furniture or the sides of the cot.

  • Cool the immediate area around the baby/child by opening up a window or door to the outside if possible.

  • Place the baby/child on their side with their head tilted back if possible. Stay with them and try to keep a note of how long the seizure lasts.

  • Do not put anything in their mouth including medicine or a thermometer as this could cause injury or tongue biting

  • Cool them by removing bedding such as a duvet or blanket, and once the seizure has passed, strip them down to a nappy or pants to allow cool air to circulate around their body.

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance, making them aware if you think the seizure has been caused by a serious illness like meningitis.

While it is unlikely there is anything seriously wrong, it is nevertheless important to get your child checked over by medical professionals by alerting 999. Febrile seizures usually only occur once, so if the seizure reoccurs within 24 hours, again ring 999 as this could be a sign of something more serious.

 (Source: NHS online)

We discuss febrile seizures alongside lots of other topics at our 2 hour baby and child first aid class, including CPR, choking, meningitis awareness, burns, bleeds and fractures. Our classes are suitable for parents, expectant parents, grandparents and anyone who has a baby or child in their care. For full class listings, please visit our website Private classes can also be arranged with a group of family/friends in the comfort of your own home, and the price remains the same at £20pp for groups of six or more.

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