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By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Febrile convulsions are seizures (or fits) that can occur when a baby or child has a fever. They are most common between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. According to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, one in 30 children will have a febrile convulsion. Febrile convulsions occur because of a sudden rise in body temperature. They are not a sign of epilepsy and, in almost all cases, do not cause harm to the brain.


To qualify for being called a ‘febrile convulsion’, children need to have a fever at the same time as their seizure. Sometimes the fever is only noticed after the fit. During the convulsion, the child generally loses consciousness (‘passes out’). The convulsion may involve shaking or stiffening of the arms and/or legs. Your child’s eyes may roll back during the seizure. Most seizures last less than three minutes. After the seizure your child may be disoriented, confused or sleepy. This usually lasts 10-15 minutes. She will be unlikely to remember what happened. According to The Better Health Channel, 30% of children who have had a febrile convulsion will have another.


There is nothing you need to do to stop a simple febrile convulsion. However, as a parent, you have an important role. First, protect your child from danger. If there are any sharp objects nearby, clear them. If possible, move your child onto something soft, like carpet. If possible, lay her on her side. Take note of the time the convulsion started. Try to remember the symptoms so you can tell your doctor about them later. Do not put anything in your child’s mouth. She will not choke on her tongue. If the seizure is going for more than five minutes, or if your child does not wake up after the seizure (or if she wakes unwell), call an ambulance immediately. It is important to see your doctor after a febrile convulsion. Medications like paracetamol can reduce the discomfort of fever, but they do not reduce the risk of having a febrile convulsion.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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