Fort Worth, Texas,
16:01 PM

Febrile seizures: 13 facts every parent should know

The Doc Smitty walks us through what he tells parents

I try to downplay concerns about fevers. You can read more about that here and here.

Once people have heard my reasoning, they can get on board that fever isn’t as big of a deal as they once thought except for one MAJOR question:

What about febrile seizures?

The bottom line is that febrile seizures for the most part have to do with genetics and other uncontrollable issues. It has very little to do with the parent’s treating or not treating fever. Basically some kids are simply more likely to have them than others. You might just consider it a bit of bad luck.

On that note, here are 13 facts about febrile seizures:

  1. Seizures can only be classified as febrile seizure if they happen when the child has fever.
  2. Most febrile seizures occur on the first day of illness (often before the family knows the child has a fever).
  3. The child cannot have a history of seizures or an infection that causes inflammation of the brain (like meningitis).
  4. Febrile seizures occur between the ages of 6 months to 6 years (most commonly 12-18 months).
  5. Boys are slightly more likely to have febrile seizures.
  6. About 1/3 of all kids who have a febrile seizure will have another febrile seizure in their lifetime.
  7. Kids with febrile seizures are only slightly more likely to have non-febrile seizures (only 1-2 percent).
  8. Febrile seizures involve whole body shaking. If it’s just one sided or one body part, other causes should be considered.
  9. Most febrile seizures are less than five minutes.
  10. Head imaging (CT or MRI) and EEG (which look at brain activity) are not necessary with febrile seizures.
  11. Treatment at the time of a febrile seizure is not necessary if less than 5 minutes.
  12. Children with febrile seizures do not need to be admitted to the hospital unless the underlying cause of the fever makes it necessary.
  13. Trying to prevent febrile seizures by treating fever aggressively has not been shown to be effective.

These are the 13 facts that I walk through with all of my families who have experienced a febrile seizure.

Hopefully knowing the facts will decrease some of the fear and relieve some of the guilt that has been placed on them for not preventing febrile seizures by catching fever in time.

About the author

Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in the fall of 2016.

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As a local PNP and soon to be father, I really enjoy your posts!