Symptoms and Signs of How to Prevent Febrile Seizures (Seizures and Fever)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/28/2021

Doctor's Notes on How to Prevent Febrile Seizures (Seizures and Fever)

Febrile seizures are a sign and symptom of a potentially serious underlying medical problem, especially if they occur in adults. Signs and symptoms of febrile seizures include fever, followed by when the person makes a moaning or unusual sound or becomes stiffened and is not responsive or alert. Frequently, symptoms progress to abnormal rhythmic jerking of the arms and/or legs. The person usually falls down. Urinary incontinence is common. The patient may not appear to be breathing, however, if the seizure is of brief duration, the patient actually may be taking short breaths that are not noticeable. In most individuals, during the seizure, the eyes are open, but the person is not responsive. Some individuals may be somewhat combative briefly as a return to consciousness gradually happens over a few minutes. Some individuals may have mild seizures with only staring spells and/or stiffening without rhythmic jerking. Others may have abnormal movements of a single limb.

The first seizure, especially if it is associated with fever, is a medical emergency in adults or if seizures last more than 5 minutes, the patient has breathing difficulty, is injured during the seizure, or has persistent confusion or unconsciousness.

In children, simple febrile seizures are common. They usually last only a few minutes and produce the following signs and symptoms:

  • rolling the eyes,
  • moan or make others sounds,
  • becoming unconscious,
  • vomiting and/or urinating during the seizure, and
  • convulsing, shaking, or twitching during the seizure.

In most instances, fever seems to be the cause of seizures. Febrile seizures in children cause no long-term problems and are usually treated with over-the-counter fever medications, except for aspirin and/or tepid baths. Complex febrile seizures last longer than 10 minutes and usually occur more than once in 24 hours. Medical caregivers should examine the child.

The cause of a febrile seizure is not clear, but viral and bacterial infections are usually associated with febrile seizures. Seek emergency medical care if you suspect that a bacterial infection is related to your fever and seizures.

What Is the Treatment of a Febrile Seizure?

Treatments of a febrile seizure vary in children and adults. With adults, the treatments depend on the underlying cause, such as using antibiotics for an infection source. The majority of febrile seizures occur in children, and most will stop spontaneously in about 2-3 minutes. The treatment at home is as follows:

  • Put the child on a soft flat surface on their side.
  • Start timing the seizure.
  • Remove any hard or sharp items near your child.
  • Loosen tight clothing.
  • Stay close and comfort the child.
  • Do not restrain or interfere with the child's movements.
  • Do not put anything in the child's mouth.

Call for emergency services

  • if the child's seizure lasts 5 or more minutes,
  • if the child has repeated seizures, or
  • if the seizure lasted less than 5 minutes but the child is not improving quickly.

For seizures that are more serious, a doctor may administer an antiseizure medication and hospitalize the child. However, most febrile seizures end quickly and do not require admission to a hospital.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.