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Febrile seizures - Treating febrile seizures

In many cases, febrile seizures do not need to be treated, although care should be taken to deal with a seizure as it happens.

What to do during a seizure

If your child is having a febrile seizure, place them in the recovery position. Lay them on their side, on a soft surface, with their face turned to one side. This will stop them swallowing any vomit, and will keep their airway open and help prevent injury.

Stay with your child while they're having a seizure, and make a note of when the seizure started to keep track of how long it lasts. If the seizure lasts for less than five minutes, phone your GP or call NHS 111.

If it's your child's first seizure, or if it lasts longer than five minutes, take your child to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.

While there's probably nothing seriously wrong with your child, it's best to be sure.

Don't put anything, including medication, in your child’s mouth while they're having a seizure. There's a slight chance that they might bite their tongue, although any damage isn't usually serious and will heal within a few days.

Trying to stop someone biting their tongue by placing your hand or an object in their mouth could be dangerous both for you and for them.

High temperature (fever)

Reducing a high temperature can help make your child feel more comfortable. Paracetamol and ibuprofen have been shown to be effective in reducing a high temperature. However, they won't reduce the chances of your child actually having a seizure.

Removing any unnecessary clothes and bedding will also help to lower your child’s temperature.

Aspirin should never be given to children under 16 years of age because there's a small risk that the medication could trigger a condition called Reye’s syndrome, which can cause brain and liver damage.

The use of cold sponges or fans isn't recommended for treating a high temperature. There's little evidence that they're effective, and they may cause your child discomfort. Your GP will be able to give you additional advice about treating the underlying cause of your child’s high temperature.

It's also important to prevent dehydration during a fever by making sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.

Recurring febrile seizures

About one third of children will have a febrile seizure again during a subsequent infection. This often occurs within a year of the first febrile seizure.

Recurrence is more likely if:

  • the first febrile seizure occurred before your child was 18 months old
  • there's a history of seizures or epilepsy in your family
  • before having the first seizure your child had a fever that lasted less than one hour or their temperature was less than 40C (104F) 
  • your child has multiple seizures during the same febrile episode (complex febrile seizure)
  • your child attends a day care nursery (this increases their chances of developing common childhood infections, such as the flu or chickenpox)

It's not recommended that your child is given a prescription of regular medicines to prevent further febrile seizures. This is because the adverse side effects associated with many medicines outweigh any risks of the seizures themselves.

Research has shown that the use of medication to control fever isn't likely to prevent recurrence of further febrile seizures.

However, there may be exceptional circumstances where medication to prevent recurrent febrile seizures is recommended. For example, children may need medication if they have a low threshold for having seizures during illness, particularly if the seizures are prolonged.

In this case, your child may be prescribed medications such as diazepam or lorazepam to take at the start of a fever.

Children who've had a febrile seizure following a routine vaccination (which is very rare), are no more at risk of having another seizure compared to children who've had a seizure due to another cause for fever.

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