Febrile Convulsions

A Febrile convulsion is a seizure (fit) which happens when the electrical activity in the brain is disturbed by a fever which usually occurs without warning.

Approximately 4% of children (1 in 25) will experience a febrile convulsion between the ages of 6 months to 6 years. Research has shown that 1 in 3 children who have a febrile seizure will experience a second seizure between the ages of 12 and 24 months and 1 in 15 will have three of more febrile convulsions.

They are extremely frightening for a parent to watch because they can’t be stopped at home and the child is unresponsive.

There are many type of seizures but the most common actions described by parents are where the child...

  • Becomes stiff or floppy
  • Eyes roll backwards
  • Child falls to the ground
  • Becomes unconscious and is unresponsive
  • Have arching of the head and back
  • Sharp jerky, twitching like movements of the arms and legs
  • May have noisy, laboured breathing
  • Mucus and blood (if they have bitten their tongue) drools from the mouth.
  • Older children may be incontinent

Another type of seizure is where the child is awake, breathing, not moving but has a vacant stare. They do not respond to voice, movement or sound. Younger babies may have ‘bicycling’ motion of their legs or perform movements with their lips - ‘lip smacking’ along with the ‘vacant stare’.
Medical attention should be sought for this type of seizure as the fever needs to be investigated.

What to do at home:

  • Stay calm
  • Remove any potentially harmful objects eg. furniture out of your child’s way
  • Roll your child onto his side (recovery position)
  • Place a cushion/towel under his head
  • Time the convulsion if possible
  • Stay with you child and talk to him/her reassuringly
  • When the convulsion has stopped dial 000.

Paracetamol and Ibuprofen may help to reduce a temperature but there is no evidence to show that they prevent febrile seizures.

Fact Sheets

Fever Fact Sheet


Febrile Convulsions


Head Injuries


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