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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
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Convulsions with Fever - Brief Version

What are convulsions?

Convulsions are also called seizures. They are sudden, uncontrolled jerks of the muscles. They can be caused by a high fever. They are the most common type of convulsion and are harmless. They most often occur when the fever is about 104ƒF (40ƒC). A fever can be caused by an infection in any part of the body.

Each seizure lasts 1 to 10 minutes without any treatment. For most of the children, a seizure from a fever will only happen once in their life. Some have one to three more seizures over the next few years. These type of seizures usually stop by age 5 or 6 years.

What should I do when my child has a convulsion?

  • Protect your child's airway. Place your child on the side or stomach to help drain saliva. If the child throws up, help clear the mouth. Use a suction bulb if available. If your child's breathing becomes noisy, pull the jaw and chin forward. Don't try to force anything into your child's mouth.
  • Reduce the fever. Bringing your child's fever down as quickly as possible will shorten the seizure. Remove your child's clothing and put cold washcloths on the face and neck. Sponge the rest of the body with cool water. When the seizure is over and your child is awake, give the usual dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).

How can I take care of my child?

  • Control the fever. The seizures usually occur during the first day of an illness. Try to control the fever by giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the first sign of any fever. Continue giving the medicine for the first 48 hours of the illness. Awaken your child once during the night to give medicine.
  • Use light covers. Don't cover your child with more than one blanket. Bundling during sleep can push the temperature up 1 or 2 degrees.
  • Give fluids. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child's neck becomes stiff.
  • Your child becomes confused or difficult to awaken.
  • Your child starts to act very sick.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems