Febrile Convulsions – Would you know what to do?

baby in cotWould you know what to do if you woke to find your baby having a seizure in the night?  Stephanie did not and so when she found her eight month old daughter convulsing in her cot she was terrified. Here Stephanie passes on her knowledge in the hope that no one may ever needs it but better to be safe than sorry.

(Note: This piece features Stephanie’s experience and is not intended as medical advice. We urge you to consult your doctor or medical authority for all issues regarding your child’s health.)

It was middle of the night, my husband was working a night shift and my daughter was sleeping in her cot placed next to my bed.  She had been a bit poorly that day but it was just a cold and as she was still feeding really well I wasn’t concerned.  At around 3 am I settled her back to sleep after a night feed, turned off the light and was just starting to drift off myself when I became aware of a strange noise coming from the cot.

Reaching my hand down into the cot I could tell something was wrong.  I put the light on quickly and saw that my daughter was having some kind of fit.  I had no idea what to do.  I wondered if it was meningitis or epilepsy and tried to remember what I knew but nothing useful came to mind.  The overwhelming feeling of total helplessness and panic was terrible, I even wondered if my baby girl was going to die.  I held her in my arms as she continued to have convulsions and dialed 999.

I can’t speak more highly of the service I received from the NHS that night.  The ambulance arrived in fifteen minutes and once they realised I was alone they woke my neighbour so she could watch my four year old son.  The seizure ended finally and we were rushed to the hospital.   After several checks we were told she’d had a febrile convulsion, a type of seizure that is triggered by a sharp rise in temperature, very common in young children and thankfully usually harmless.

A few weeks later my daughter suffered a second fit.  Again it seemed to come from nowhere.  She was fine one minute and fitting the next.  Watching your child having a seizure is a very distressing experience but the fear factor was greatly reduced simply by knowing what to do.

ear thermometer

The second time round I knew to turn her on her side, to strip her of extra clothing to keep her cool,  to make sure she stayed safe while she was having convulsions and to dial 999.   After her second seizure I became obsessed with prevention.  I purchased an ear thermometer and checked her temperature regularly and I became very quick to administer Calpol if I felt she was getting to hot.  I took her out of her grow bag and gave her blankets instead so I could add and remove layers  as required and thankfully we haven’t had another seizure since.

I hope this is something that you never experience but if you do then knowing what to do will hopefully reduce the fear factor and the good news is that most children grow out of febrile convulsions. As for my daughter, since then we have managed to keep her out of the hospital, well except for the time she decided to take a nose dive out of her cot but that  is another story!

Stephanie blogs at Storybramble where she posts free audio stories and poems for children with follow on creative activities.  She is a trained actor, qualified drama teacher and very unqualified mother of her two children aged five and two. Find her on TwitterFacebook and Google +.

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22 Responses to Febrile Convulsions – Would you know what to do?

  1. Franglaise Mummy 20 May 2013 at 17:49 #

    Wow! Thanks for sharing what must have been a terrifying experience, and no, I wouldn’t know what to do either, but I feel a bit better about it now. I’m also glad to be going on a paediatric first aid course soon!

  2. Stephanie 20 May 2013 at 19:57 #

    A first aid course is a great idea, I should look into that. Knowing what to do makes these things a lot easier to handle .

  3. middleenglandmum 20 May 2013 at 20:49 #

    We had a similar experience of helplessness…on a typical small Cornish lane middle of nowhere strange noises from car seat to find our 15 month fitting. Terrified pulled over, unstrapped her as she started to go grey…Air Ambualnce came and were fantastic.

    We learnt many things that afternoon but the two I always remember are; to always donate to the Air Ambulance as they are an amazing service. Second, if you are in a no mobile reception area and you dial 999, your phone jumps to find a signal and you get through.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Stephanie 21 May 2013 at 20:21 #

      Wow. That must have been terrifying. To be in the middle of nowhere like that, not knowing if you could get through to anyone. My friend’s daughter had one in the carseat too, very scary. Thanks for the 999 tip, reassuring to know that.

  4. Liz 21 May 2013 at 07:07 #

    My nephew suffered febrile convulsions as a baby and spent some time in hospital as a result. It was absolutely terrifying. I don’t think enough parents know about it, so thank you for highlighting, and glad to hear everything turned out OK.

    • Stephanie 21 May 2013 at 20:22 #

      I agree. I had never heard of it before and I don’t know why it isn’t spoken about more often. They are really scary but if you know what to watch for you can deal with it better or even avoid it all together.

  5. Kate @craftsonsea 21 May 2013 at 12:45 #

    Thank you for sharing this, I hope that I’ll never need to know what to do, but at least I know now!

    • Stephanie 21 May 2013 at 20:23 #

      Yes I hope it never comes your way but knowing how to respond does help. I was so clueless it made it much more frightening.

  6. Alison 21 May 2013 at 12:52 #

    My son suffered from febrile convulsions and it was totally terrifying. We became really paranoid about his temperature and when it went up slightly were constantly checking it. We quickly learnt lots about how to treat it, alternating calpol and ibuprofen, using a fan and wet sponging. I am so glad they grow out of it. Thanks for sharing

  7. Stephanie 21 May 2013 at 20:24 #

    I am still totally paranoid about temperature! She’s two now but she still doesn’t have a duvet because I feel better with her in just blankets. Poor girl is kept on the cold side a bit but I would rather that than risk another seizure!

  8. Jamie Riley 22 May 2013 at 13:54 #

    My daughter had her first febrile seizure two days before her first birthday it was terrifying I thought my baby was dieing and had no clue what to do. I was alone my husband was at work and it took all i had to dial 911 for an ambulance. Once we got to the hospital she was 104 degrees it was there I was told about febrile seizures and told to follow up with the pediatrician in the morning. I did, I was told that it was something that happens once or twice and then never again…..my daughter Pyper had over 60 total many on the same day before any doctor (and I went through a few) offered to place tubes in her ears why you ask? because every time she had a fever it was brought on by an ear infection. She had one after that just one and it was because one of the tubes fell out. I was told that by the time most children are 6 years old they out grow these seizures because their skin expands and they can cool off easier, making a tempature rise slower and not lightning fast which causes the seizure. With my daughter it just took a fabulous doctor seeing what caused the fever in the first place and dealing with that. So never be afraid to find a new doctor who knows how many more my sweet Pyper would have had. She is will 9 years old in July and her very last seizure was at the age of 3 and a half when her little sister was born I refused to leave her alone when she slept at night was in a bed right next to her. The fear will always be there unfortuantely but having other parents know and talk about it let us know we aren’t (or in my case weren’t alone).

    • Stephanie 23 May 2013 at 17:00 #

      Over sixty, how awful for you all. We have been lucky not to have any more, they are so stressful to watch. I hope your daughter stays well now.

  9. Susan Mann 22 May 2013 at 16:16 #

    My oldest used to suffer from febrile convulsions I blogged about it a while ago if you’d like to read.

    Thankfully he’s grown out of them.


    • Stephanie 23 May 2013 at 17:00 #

      Glad he has grown out of them, I will pop over and read your post.

  10. Elizabeth 22 May 2013 at 22:37 #

    Thank you for sharing this. My daughter had a febrile convulsion while we were on holiday last month. It was probably the scariest experience of my life! I was not aware of the condition but upon sharing my story I couldn’t believe how common it actually is- so many others had similar stories. We are now so careful to keep her cool whenever she has a fever. Read my story here… http://www.wandermum.co.uk/hospital-dash/

    • Stephanie 23 May 2013 at 17:01 #

      That is what surprised me too, that it was so common and yet I had never heard of it. I don’t know why they don’t raise awareness of them.

  11. Aida 23 May 2013 at 15:47 #

    that is so helpful, thank you for sharing. Funny enough I read somewhere that’s normal on young babies and always wondered what to do if it ever happened to my lill guy.

  12. Stephanie 23 May 2013 at 17:02 #

    We were advised to always call for an ambulance, but knowing to keep her cool and safe helps too.

  13. Emma Nutrition 04 June 2013 at 14:09 #

    Great post, I lost my snobbery around giving drugs once I learnt about febrile convulsions! Rather a little calpol to prevent than have a febrile convulsion. Not that all can be prevented but it is very good to know the risks of a fever.

  14. Carol 18 June 2013 at 10:01 #

    We’ve just had our first febrile convulsion and should get the test results back this afternoon. The most scariest thing I’ve ever seen, but I knew straight away to call for an ambulance and barked orders at my OH. I just put her on her left side and started stripping from the bottom up. She was foaming so much I couldn’t get her jammies over her head, but got the arms off.
    Best tip if you don’t have a mobile signal in the UK is not to dial 999, but 112 (same service). It not only will it find you a signal, but sends a GPS link to the 999 service to tell them where you are – great if you have no idea or are on holiday. Probably works in other countries too

  15. Courtney 25 July 2013 at 06:30 #

    My story is so similar to yours stephanie!!! My lil girl Matilda has had 2 febrile seizures now. She stopped breathing altogether (they thought she had an obstruction in her airways of foam)… does anyone have any advice as to how to feel safe putting their babies back in their own rooms? Matilda has been sleeping with us ever since her first seizure 6 months ago, we are so sleep deprived by it, but id rather never sleep again than have her having a seizure & me not waking for it… Any advice would be fantastic….

  16. Jazz 10 September 2013 at 13:33 #

    Hi, my little boy had one a few nights ago, he called out for me on monitor and when I went up he started having one and I was absolutely terrified I was losing him, I had never heard of them before. He has a pull out trundle bed with his so hubby has been sleeping in there as we still have younger one in with us who I need to be with. I’m just so scared he will have another and I won’t hear him and hubby sleeps so deeply. I know it’s unlikely and fever related and he doesn’t have a fever any more but how do you not worry every night? Since he had it I get him to fall asleep on sofa and take up when we are going to bed. Whenever I’m near his room it’s in my head. It’s like a nightmare over and over. Just need to share but any suggestions or ideas to lessen my worries would be great.