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Febrile seizure
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Febrile seizure

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CHILDREN'S HEALTH

Infants

In young children, a rapidly rising body temperature can cause a seizure or a convulsion. This is called a fever seizure or febrile seizure. It typically affects children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and lasts just a few minutes. But it can seem like an eternity to frightened parents.

Screening and diagnosis

Your doctor will need to examine your child to determine the possible causes of the fever and seizure. Your doctor may order blood and urine tests to detect an infection.

If your doctor suspects a central nervous system infection, a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) may be necessary. In this procedure, a doctor inserts a needle into your child's lower back to remove a small amount of spinal fluid. This test can reveal evidence of infection in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Further tests may be necessary if your child suffered a complex febrile seizure.

Complications

Although febrile seizures may cause great fear and concern for parents, most febrile seizures produce no lasting effects. Simple febrile seizures don't cause brain damage, mental retardation or learning disabilities, and they don't mean your child has a more serious underlying disorder, such as epilepsy.

Epilepsy in children is defined as recurring seizures in the absence of fever. The odds that your child will develop epilepsy after a febrile seizure are small. Only 2 percent to 4 percent of children who have a febrile seizure go on to develop epilepsy, but not because of the febrile seizures. Children with epilepsy sometimes have their first seizures during fevers. However, between 95 percent and 98 percent of children who have a simple febrile seizure never develop epilepsy.

The most common complication of febrile seizures is more febrile seizures. About a third of children who have a febrile seizure will have another one with a subsequent fever. The risk of recurrence is higher if your child had a low fever at the time of the first febrile seizure, if the period of time between the start of the fever and the seizure was short, or if an immediate family member has a history of febrile seizures. But the biggest factor affecting recurrence is age. The younger a child is when the first febrile seizure occurs, the more likely he or she is to have more.

Febrile seizure > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:37 AM