Fever-Related Seizures

Fever-related seizures are full-body convulsions that occur due to fever in a young child. They usually affect children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years, and they are most common in toddlers between the ages of 12 to 18 months.

Fever-related seizures, while very scary, usually do not harm the child. They usually stop on their own within a couple of minutes.

About 2 percent to 5 percent of children will have at least one fever-related seizure. No one knows why these seizures occur, but studies show that some may be caused by viruses.

Fever-related seizures can also run in families.

Children who are under 12 months of age when they have their first fever-related seizure have about a 50 percent chance of having another one in the future with fever. Just because your child has a fever-related seizure does not mean that your child has epilepsy. A child who has had a fever-related seizure has a slightly higher chance, around 2 percent to 5 percent, of developing epilepsy. This is more common when the family has a history of epilepsy.

  • Remain calm
  • Lay your child on the bed or floor
  • Remove any objects from the area that may cause an injury
  • Place your child on his / her side to prevent choking on saliva or vomit
  • Do not put anything in your child’s mouth
  • You cannot swallow your tongue, and putting medicine into your child’s mouth could cause choking
  • Do not try to keep your child from moving
  • Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or the child has trouble breathing
  • Most children do not need to go to the emergency room
  • If you are not sure if your child is OK, then have your child evaluated

Your child may be sleepy or irritable. If you see blood coming from the mouth, this usually means that there was a bite to the inside of the cheek or tongue during the seizure. After the seizure has stopped, place a clean cloth on the area and apply gentle pressure to stop the bleeding.

Call your child’s healthcare provider. It is important that your child is evaluated to see if there is a treatable cause for the fever. Most children will have only one seizure within a 24-hour period. Giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat the fever will make your child more comfortable but will not necessarily prevent future seizures.

There is no evidence that fever-related seizures cause brain damage. Large studies have found that children who experience fever-related seizures have normal school success and perform as well on intelligence tests as their siblings who have never had a seizure.

Fever-related seizures can be very scary to watch but remember:

  • They are fairly common in children 6 months to 6 years of age
  • They are usually not related to a serious illness
  • In most cases they do not lead to epilepsy or other health problems

Talk with your child’s health care provider if you have any questions or concerns.


Last Updated 07/2012