baby with temperature

Watching your child have a febrile seizure can be frightening. This article describes the symptoms and what you can do to help your child.

A febrile seizure (also known as a febrile convulsion) is a fit that generally occurs in babies when they experience a sudden rise in temperature. They are most commonly experienced by children aged between six months to six years.

Watch this short video to see how to treat a baby having a febrile seizure.

What to do if your child is having a febrile seizure

1. Protect them from injury but don’t restrain them:

Remove any objects that may injure them while they’re having a seizure. Use a blanket or clothing to protect them. 

2. Remove their outer clothing to help cool them

If the room is hot, ensure there is a flow of fresh air by opening a window or door.

3. When the seizure is over, help your child to rest on their side with their head tilted back in the recovery position

For babies under one, cradle them in your arms with their head lower than their bottom (watch the video above).

4. If symptoms continue, or it’s their first seizure, seek medical advice.

Frequently asked questions about febrile seizures and convulsions

Should I call 999 or take my child to A&E?

NHS Choices advises that if it's your child's first seizure, or it lasts longer than five minutes, take them to your nearest hospital as soon as possible, or dial 999 for an ambulance. While it's unlikely that there's anything seriously wrong, it's best to be sure.

If your child has had febrile seizures before and the seizure lasts for less than five minutes, phone your GP or NHS 111 for advice.

What does a febrile seizure look like?

If your baby or child is having a seizure they may arch their back, stiffen their body and have clenched fists. They may be red-faced, hot to touch and sweating. Their eyes may roll upwards and they may hold their breath. Although febrile seizures can be scary to witness, it might be reassuring to know that, in most cases, they aren’t serious.

Is there any way I can prevent a febrile seizure?

Having a high temperature is a common cause of febrile seizures. If your baby or child has a fever, try and avoid letting them get too hot by removing outer clothing and blankets, opening windows, turning off the central heating and giving them paracetamol-based syrup.

How do I remove clothing from a child having a seizure?

It can be a challenge to remove clothing from a baby or child having a seizure as they may be very stiff. It’s important to remain calm and gently remove the clothes without restraining the child. Try to remove the clothes one limb at a time.

Should I try and give my child medication during a seizure?

No - don't put anything, including medication, in your child’s mouth during a seizure. This may cause them, or you, further injury.

How long does a seizure usually last?

Seizures vary in length but they are usually a few minutes long.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

NCT and the British Red Cross run First Aid courses for parents with babies and children up to 12 years old on life-saving topics, such as CPR, stopping bleeding and what to do if your child is choking. Find your nearest course.

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