Having a sick child is bad enough, but when he has a seizure, it becomes very alarming. About 3 percent of children from ages 6 months to 3 years will develop a seizure when a fever rises suddenly.
Fortunately, these febrile seizures usually last only a short while--less than a couple minutes — and seldom harm the child.
Never-the-less, it is important to bring the child to his doctor for an evaluation if he has a febrile seizure. Often there is an ear infection or pneumonia which needs to be treated, and there are other medical illnesses which should also be ruled out as a cause of seizures. A seizure may indicate a more serious problem, such as an infection around the brain called meningitis, or there can be abnormal blood chemistries.
Your doctor will do an exam, lab tests and sometimes a spinal tap, especially if it is the first seizure. The spinal tap is a safe procedure which checks for infections or bleeding around the brain and for abnormal pressures within the head. Other tests, such as a CT scan, may be necessary.
At a later date it may be wise to do a brain wave test to check for an underlying seizure disorder, especially if there are recurrent seizures. When the tests are normal, a child usually does not need any medicines. Children who get recurrent febrile seizures or have other risk factors for seizures may benefit from a medicine such as phenobarbital. This medicine works well to prevent the seizures, but occasionally has side effects of hyperactivity, irritability, lethargy and rashes.
First aid, if your child has a seizure, includes protecting him from injury and keeping his airway open, but do not force the mouth open. And after it has resolved bring him to the hospital as soon as possible for an exam.