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Febrile convulsions - What are the symptoms of febrile convulsions?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

The main symptom of a febrile convulsion is that your child's body twitches or shakes. Children also lose consciousness. Your child won't look at you or react to your voice.

It can be really worrying seeing your child having a convulsion (fit). They may foam at the mouth, vomit, or wet or soil themselves. It's important to remember that children get completely better after most kinds of febrile convulsions.

The main kind of convulsion we talk about here is called a simple febrile convulsion. Some other kinds of febrile convulsions may last longer or take longer to recover from. To find out more, see Other types of convulsions.

Febrile convulsions are caused by a fever (high temperature). But the convulsion can be the first sign that your child has a fever. So don't worry if you hadn't noticed your child was feeling ill. Lots of parents don't notice anything unusual about their child until the convulsion starts.

Simple febrile convulsions

Most children who have a simple febrile convulsion twitch or shake evenly on both sides of their body.[16] Or they may go rigid, holding their arms and legs stiffly. They won't respond to anything around them.

The convulsion will probably be over in a minute or two, and certainly in less than 15 minutes. Some last only a few seconds.

Complex febrile convulsions

If one side of your child's body seems to jerk or twitch more vigorously, it could mean your child is having a complex febrile convulsion. A convulsion that lasts longer than 15 minutes may also be a complex convulsion. These convulsions can take longer for your child to recover from.

If only one side of your child's body moves, or the convulsion lasts longer than five minutes, take your child to see their doctor or to hospital, or call 999 for an ambulance.

After a convulsion

Children may go into a very deep sleep after their convulsion. You may not be able to wake them up. But this isn't unusual, and it's not part of the convulsion.

What you should do

If your child has a febrile convulsion, your first instinct will probably be to take your child to hospital or call 999 for an ambulance. It's always a good idea to see a doctor if someone has had a convulsion. It's especially important to see a doctor if it's the first convulsion your child has had.

There are also some other things you can do to help your child, and help their doctor find out what type of convulsion they had. To find out more, see What should I do if my child has a convulsion?

Glossary

fever

If you have a fever, your body temperature is above 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). With a fever you often get other symptoms, such as shivering, headache or sweating. A fever is usually caused by an infection.

For more terms related to Febrile convulsions

Citations

For references related to Febrile convulsions click here.
Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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