My child had a seizure the last time she had an infection that caused a high fever. The doctor told me it was because of the high fever. How does this happen? Can it be prevented?
Some children are prone to convulsions, with high fever. Mostly children get febrile convulsions between 9 months to 5 years of age. A child may have 2 to 3 episodes of febrile convulsions and then never in life again. It is very rare for febrile seizures to continue as epilepsy later in life.
Ear infections, throat infections, viral infections usually herald a seizure in a child with fever. The exact cause of why some children get seizure with a high temperature is not known. But it is said that endogenous pyrogens and chemicals stimulate the nervous system and because threshold for seizures is low in a child, it is triggered.
Familial susceptibility also exists.
Usually one episode of convulsion can occur in 24 hours, even if fever persists. It may manifest as sudden contraction of muscles, sudden cry with no response to being called with tongue bite or fainting or involuntary movements of one or more limbs suddenly. Another may occur in 15 minutes or so rarely but usually it stops there.
If the seizure occurs, the child should be put in a quiet comfortable place, the body movements should not be stopped by force, nor should be anything put inside the mouth. Fever should be brought down by paracetamol suppositories or lukewarm sponging.
Since childhood infections like that of the ear cannot be prevented completely, febrile seizures cannot be prevented totally. But if a child gets repeated seizures after every 15 minutes, seizures persist even after fever comes to normal, seizures affect only one side of the body, there is associated headache and vomiting with photophobia (child turning face away from light) and or neck rigidity, it indicates a sinister condition like infection of the brain or its coverings. In this situation urgent medical treatment is needed.
Dr Rachna Pande is a specialist in internal medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital