How to Help If Your Child Has a Seizure: Call EMS and Don’t Panic

Some children are prone to seizures and having met many of these parents and taken many of these children to the hospital, I know these parents are acutely aware of what to do and how to do it in the event of another seizure. It’s the children that have never had a seizure before and you the parents that have never had to deal with one before that we will focus on. The type of seizure most commonly encountered by children having their first seizure is the febrile seizure. The American College of Emergency Physicians published a number of great findings about febrile seizures and stated the following:

Simple fever-related (or febrile) seizures are common among children under age 5. Although these seizures can be frightening to parents and other caretakers, they are generally harmless. Annals of Emergency Medicine, the scientific journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians, published the following advice for parents and caretakers about simple febrile seizures.

Children at Risk

  • Febrile seizures tend to run in families and are not preventable. Children of parents with a history of these seizures are about four- and one-half times more likely to experience a febrile seizure, and if both parents had febrile seizures as children, their child is 20 times more likely to experience one.
  • About 30 percent of children who have a febrile seizure will have another one, usually within a year of the first seizure.
  • Simple febrile seizures are common among children ages 6 months to 5 years.
  • Febrile seizures have been associated with viral infections, Roseola, and Shigella, which is a bacteria that causes bloody diarrhea.
  • There are no risk factors for febrile seizures related to geography, race, or ethnicity.

Signs and Symptoms

Here are the signs and symptoms associated with simple febrile seizures:

  • Simple febrile seizures generally occur in the first few hours of a high fever or rapid rise in body temperature.
  • These seizures generally occur only once in a 24-hour period and usually last less than a minute, but can last 15 minutes or longer.
  • May cause loss of consciousness.
  • May cause rhythmic muscle contractions.
  • May cause child to clench teeth or bite cheek or tongue.
  • Child may stare or become unresponsive.
  • May cause face, arms, and legs to twitch, and arms or legs to jerk.
  • Eyes may roll back.
  • May cause difficulty breathing.
  • May cause child to lose bladder or bowel control.

Advice to Parents

Parents should seek immediate medical attention for a child or infant experiencing a febrile seizure, even if the seizure does not appear life-threatening (e.g., child’s breathing is not constricted). Although the seizure may end before medical helps arrives or before the child reaches the emergency department, it is important to have a physician rule out other causes for a first-time seizure, especially meningitis. While the child is experiencing a seizure and until help arrives, parents should:

  • Protect the child from injury.
  • Lay the child face-up on the floor. If the child vomits, turn on the left side to prevent inhaling vomit or mucus into the lungs.
  • Do not place anything, including your fingers, in the child’s mouth.

After a Seizure

  • In the emergency department, a child who has had a seizure will be evaluated for serious diseases, such as pneumonia or meningitis. This may require diagnostic tests such as blood work, urinalysis, x-rays, or a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Most children who experience a simple febrile seizure will not require admission to the hospital.
  • Medicines generally are not given to prevent simple febrile seizures. In addition, medicines given for fevers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, have not been shown to prevent febrile seizures, but are often recommended because they relieve body aches and fever.
  • After a seizure, a child may be sleepy or experience memory loss, headache, or confusion.
  • Febrile seizures can recur if the child has another fever.

The final thing I would like to add to this is that there is no reason to delay calling 911 if your child starts to have a seizure or you think they are having one please call and allow the professionals to help.

Good luck and Be Safe.

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


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