Febrile convulsion in children and adults

A febrile convulsion occurs most often in children up to the age of five. The child is ill, has a fever and may suddenly jerk his body. There is a good chance that the child is having a febrile convulsion. The child is often unconscious. In most cases, a febrile convulsion is harmless, but can be worrying for parents. Sometimes adults also get a febrile convulsion.

Who gets a febrile convulsion?

A febrile seizure is also called febrile convulsion and is known in the English language as febrile seizure. Febrile convulsions occur most often in children up to five years of age, with the peak occurring in children between one and two years old. But older children can also have a febrile convulsion. Rarely, febrile convulsions occur in children younger than six months old. On average, one or more febrile convulsions occur in 1 in 25 children. Febrile convulsions are less common in adults. Hereditary predisposition often plays a role in this.
A febrile convulsion occurs when there is a fever. A fever is a body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more. Besides being annoying, a fever is also very useful: it allows the body to better defend itself against harmful bacteria or viruses . In addition, microorganisms become weaker due to a higher body temperature, which makes the attack by your own body even more effective. Sometimes a febrile convulsion occurs when there is no fever yet. We then see the body temperature rise to above 38 degrees within a few hours.

The course of an attack

The brain works through electrical currents. With fever, a short circuit can occur: the currents then continue to work too much. This mainly occurs in young children whose brains are not yet sufficiently mature. The body begins to jerk during an attack. This can be the entire body, but also only on one side. Most patients are unconscious and no longer respond to their environment. This is sometimes very frightening for parents. The breath is sometimes held or the breath is shallow or stuttering. The patient develops a red and later a blue complexion. At this point, many parents are panicking because it seems like their child is dying. The attack lasts several minutes with an average of two minutes. The child then regains consciousness, but in most cases will quickly fall into a deep sleep. This is because a febrile convulsion requires a lot of energy. This causes the brain to become overtired and the child falls asleep.
Some febrile convulsions last only a few seconds. Parents often do not notice that their child has had a seizure. For this reason, many children experience a febrile convulsion without their parents knowing about it. In principle this does not matter: a febrile convulsion does not require further treatment. If the child has an attack when the fever is still relatively low (between 37.5 and 38.5 degrees), there is a greater chance that a second attack will occur. The risk of recurrence of febrile convulsions is also greater in children younger than 18 months old. It is advisable to ask a doctor for advice if you have a febrile convulsion. In some cases it is not a febrile convulsion itself, but a meningitis. In other cases, the febrile convulsion lasted so briefly that the parents did not notice it. This can’t do any harm.

Adults with febrile convulsions

As mentioned, adults can also have an attack. After an attack, an adult may also fall asleep or be drowsy for half an hour. A headache may occur that can sometimes last a day. This is often partly determined by hereditary predisposition. The course of an attack is the same as in children. Some adults have recurrent febrile seizures with any illness that causes fever. When the body temperature rises quickly, the risk of a febrile convulsion is greatest. Sometimes admission to hospital is necessary. Not because of the febrile convulsions themselves, but because of the underlying reason. A febrile convulsion can also be confused with an epilepsy attack. If the patient is not familiar with epilepsy, it is advisable to visit a doctor and present the complaints.