What Is a Febrile Seizure?

When They Occur and When To Be Concerned

Young girl with a fever. harpazo_hope/Moment/Getty Images

Febrile seizures are a type of seizure that only occurs when a person has a fever and they are not caused by another factor that can be identified. They are most common in children between 6 months and 5 years. Although scary for parents, they are not harmful and do not cause brain damage. Most children who have a febrile seizure (95-98%) do not go on to develop a seizure disorder like epilepsy.

What They Look Like

A febrile seizure can last anywhere from a few seconds to 10 or even 15 minutes.

Signs that your child is having a febrile seizure can be as minor as eyes rolling back in the head and stiffening of an arm or leg or as complete as full body convulsions with loss of consciousness. Some children will be upset when the seizure stops and some will not.

When They Occur

No one knows for sure why febrile seizures happen in some children and not others and there is no way to predict whether or not your child will have one.

Most often they occur within the first 24 hours of a child's fever. They usually happen when a child's temperature is over 102 degrees F. However, they don't usually happen when the temperature is at its highest.

What To Do

If your child has a febrile seizure, do not attempt to restrain or hold her during the seizure. Although it is scary to see, the best thing to do is move anything away from her that could harm her and wait for the seizure to stop, then seek medical attention.

Other things to remember:

  • Do not put anything in her mouth
  • Do not try to give her medication of any kind during the seizure
  • Do not try to put her in a bath to cool her off
  • Once the seizure is over (or if it hasn't stopped after a few minutes), contact your health care provider

Call 911 or seek medical attention immediately if:

  • The seizure does not stop after 10 minutes
  • Your child is having difficulty breathing or turns blue or gray
  • Your child is lethargic and not responding normally after the seizure
  • Your child appears dehydrated or has uncontrollable vomiting

What Happens Next?

There is no known way to prevent febrile seizures. Many health care providers will recommend treating fevers with fever reducing medications (such as Tylenol or Motrin) but studies have not found that keeping the fever down with medications will prevent seizures.

Only about a third of children who have one febrile seizure will go on to have another one. Most children "grow out of them" by age 5. Most children who have febrile seizures will not need further testing, but if your health care provider has concerns about what caused it, he may recommend certain tests.

If you have concerns or questions about febrile seizures, contact your health care provider.


"Febrile Seizures Fact Sheet". National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 16 Apr 14. National Institutes of Health. 18 Aug 14.

"Febrile Seizures". Sick Kids Jul 12. KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation. 18 Aug 14.

"Febrile Seizures". MedlinePlus 15 Aug 14. US National Library of Medicine. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. 18 Aug 14.

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