Febrile Convulsions

Children’s Services
Colchester Hospital
Turner Road

Children’s Ward
Tel: 01206 746208 or 746209

Children’s Assessment Unit
Tel: 01206 746200

Children’s Emergency Unit
Tel: 01206 742847

What do I need to know?

A febrile convulsion is a common condition. Approximately three in
every 100 children will have at least one febrile convulsion. They are
most common in children between the ages of six months and six years
and usually occur when a child has a fever or high temperature.

More Information

Febrile convulsions occur due to illnesses that cause high temperatures. Viral illnesses such as flu or ear infections are the most common cause.

Most febrile convulsions last between 1-5 minutes. They do not always happen when your child’s temperature is at its hottest.

  • Your child usually loses consciousness.
  • Your child’s eyes may roll backwards.
  • Their muscles may stiffen or jerk.
  • Your child may go red or blue in the face.
  • The convulsion may last for several minutes (most febrile convulsions last less than five minutes).
  • Children may also be incontinent of urine or faeces.
  • When the movements stop and the child regains consciousness, they remain sleepy for a while.

It is possible that your child may have another convulsion. This may be during their current illness or in the future. Approximately 30% of children who have a febrile convulsion may go on to have another one.

No, your child is unconscious and unaware of what is happening. The convulsion is much more disturbing for the parents than the child.

There is a slightly increased risk they will go on to develop epilepsy in the future, especially if the convulsion lasted a long time, if there is a family history of epilepsy or if your child had developmental delay before he or she had the convulsion. Further investigation may be required in some cases.

  • Stay calm – don’t panic.
  • Place your child on a soft surface, lying on his or her side.
  • Do not restrain your child.
  • Do not put anything in his or her mouth, including your fingers.
  • If your child vomits, clear it away from his or her mouth to prevent choking.
  • Try to watch exactly what happens so that you can describe it later.
  • Time how long the convulsion lasts.
  • Do not put a child who is having a convulsion in the bath.
  • Do not drive the car with a child who is having a convulsion.
  • The convulsion lasts more than five minutes.
  • Your child looks very sick when the convulsion stops.
  • You should see your family doctor as soon as possible.
  • If your child was very unwell before the convulsion, you should take them to see a GP immediately. Only take the child in your car if there are two adults (one to drive and one to look after the child).
  • Treatment of a fever with paracetamol or ibuprofen does not prevent a febrile convulsion. However you may want to give these if your child is uncomfortable with their fever.
  • Children under 16 years should not be given aspirin.
  • Do not sponge your child with lukewarm water or put him or her in a lukewarm bath.
  • Encourage your child to drink.

There is no evidence that convulsions can be prevented, even by treating the fever.

Most children who have febrile convulsions do not have any long-term health problems. Your GP will advise if you will need to be seen again.

Further information is available in our leaflet ‘Fever in children’. Please ask a member of staff to give you a copy if you would like to know more.

Alternatively contact NHS 111.