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Febrile Seizures

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Febrile seizures affect about one in 30 pre-school children. The peak incidence is at 18 months and they are most common between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. Causation is probably multifactorial with environmental factors and genetic factors playing a part. The immaturity of both the immune system and brain probably contribute to the phenomenon. Most febrile seizures are generalised tonic-clonic seizures, and about 30-35% have one or more complex features (focal onset, duration >10 minutes, or multiple seizures during one illness episode). Complex seizures augment both recurrence risk and the chance of developing a future epilepsy. Rarely, recurrent febrile seizures may point to a family with genetic susceptibility genes (eg GEFS+) often involving mutations in sodium channel genes, important for neurotransmission. Most children with febrile seizures do not require hospital admission. Clinical assessment should include scrutiny of risk factors for central nervous system infection.

The mainstay of management in the acute stage is first-aid management of the airway, calming the situation and subsequently offering the family information. If they understand more it will add to their confidence in managing a possibly recurrence. An approach is suggested here on how a simple biological model might be used to aid understanding. There is no evidence-base to support the use of either prophylactic antipyretic or antiepileptic drugs to reduce recurrence risk. Rescue treatment in the form of buccal midazolam or rectal diazepam should be prescribed for those with a high recurrence risk. Rescue treatment should be used if the motor component of the seizure is lasting longer than 5 minutes or if the time of seizure onset is not known.

Parents should be reassured that having a single simple febrile seizure does not pose a threat to a child’s cognitive development. Recurrent seizures may be associated with language or memory impairment but there is no association with behaviour disorder or cognition. These risks can be discussed in an encouraging context as early identification can lead to the provision of early intervention and support, saving distress for the child.

Additional Info

  • Authors: R Newton & P Cotton
  • Keywords: Febrile seizures; febrile convulsions; children
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Read 14523 times Last modified on Wednesday, 01 March 2017 12:33

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