Last week my 8 month old daughter was slightly unwell and grizzly and would not settle. Suddenly she started fitting and shaking all over, then stopped breathing. I was petrified and called 999! The fit stopped and she started breathing again but was floppy and unresponsive. I have been told that she had a febrile convulsion, but do not really understand what this means, please help?
Febrile convulsions occur in young children when there is a rapid increase in their body temperature, which causes them to fit. It is remarkably common in ~ 1:20 children between six months and five years.
The key is to keep your child’s temperature down if they are unwell. If it is higher than normal, take off excess clothes, gently tepid sponge your child under the arms and on their forehead, give them plenty to drink, open a window (without allowing them to get too cold) and give Calpol or Paediatric Neurofen. Do not give your child a bath.
If your child starts fitting move things away from them to avoid injury, protect their head, but do not pick them up or restrain them. They may bite their lips or tongue but there is nothing you can do during the fit. Do not put anything in their mouth.
The fit can last from seconds to minutes, and they may go blue and stop breathing. Once it stops, they will be unconscious but breathing and must be put into the recovery position on their side, to keep their airway open. They will typically remain unconscious for around 10 minutes and be fractious and groggy afterwards. You should call 999.
Unfortunately, once they have had one fit, they are likely to have more, so always keep their temperature down during illness. Fortunately it does not cause any long term damage and your child will grow out of it.
If you want to learn more about febrile convulsions, we suggest you read this article from our archive.
First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical First Aid course.