By: Poelano Malema
Febrile convulsions are very common in children.
When it happens, the child might shake uncontrollably, roll their eyes, vomit, urinate, moan, scream or pass out. Normally the convulsion will last a few seconds and some children might sleep immediately after that.
Dr Noko Mabotja, a general practitioner from CureWise in Gauteng, says most children get convulsions because of a high fever.
But the doctor warns that it is important to know what is causing the seizures and not just assume that it is a fever.
“When they get a convulsion, a doctor should investigate and check the cause of the seizure in that particular patient, because you can’t just conclude that it is febrile convulsions. There could be a growth developing in the brain,” warns the doctor.
She says it is important for doctors to “investigate every other possible cause of the seizures.”
To do that, doctors might do a neurological exam, blood tests, and an electroencephalogram (EEG). The tests would reveal if the seizures are febrile convulsions or the child has epilepsy.
“If it’s a seizure because the person is a confirmed epileptic, you can’t avoid it,” says the doctor.
She adds that in that case, patients need to take the prescribed medication which can help reduce the number of times they will get seizures.
However, she says if it is seizures caused by fever, parents should always monitor their child’s temperature. A normal temperature in kids should not exceed 36.4 degrees celcius.
“If the temperature rises to a certain temperature, then the brain can’t handle it, and it results in a seizure,” says doctor Mabotja.
“To prevent it, you just have to avoid fever. When they start to be hot, give them anything to stop the temperature from rising.”
She says, normally, doctors would prescribe anti-fever medication.
“If it is confirmed that it is febrile convulsions, then we start working on the antipyretic such as paracetamol,” says the doctor.
What to do when your child gets a seizure
In case of a convulsion, the doctor says the most important way to help the toddler is to ensure they don’t harm themselves.
“The best thing to do is to put them in a safer place where they will not get injured,” says the doctor.
She says the toddler should not be in close proximity with water, fire, or anything hazardous.
“If they are close to dangerous objects, they can get hurt,” she adds.
The doctor advised that the toddler should be put on a flat surface. They should also be placed on their side to prevent choking and any clothing around the head and neck should be loosened.
Until what age does it last?
Doctor Mabotja says the majority of kids outgrow convulsions by age five, unless they are epileptic.
She concludes that if the child goes to creche, parents should alert the daycare centre so that the child is always in a safe environment in case a seizure occurs.
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