Febrile Seizures

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For most children, fevers cause minor discomfort, but in some, they can trigger seizures. If your child has a seizure when they have a fever, it’s called a febrile seizure. These are common types of seizures in children. They may be the first sign of illness because the seizure may happen before the child has a fever or other symptoms. Children with febrile seizures may not have a seizure each time they’re sick.

Many children get fevers when they’re sick. Medicines like acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Children’s Motrin® or Advil®) can help with fevers. These fever-reducing medicines may not prevent a seizure.

Febrile seizures:

  • Are common between 6 months to 5 years old.
  • May happen again if your child has already had one. It’s likely your child will have more than one febrile seizure if:
  • Can be scary when you don’t know what they are. They usually don’t last long and don’t cause brain damage, learning disabilities, or epilepsy.
  • Usually happen on the first day and in the first few hours of an illness with a fever.
  • Can be associated with:
  • A temperature of 100.4˚ Fahrenheit (F) or 38˚ Celsius (C) or higher.
  • An infection like flu, chickenpox, or an ear infection.
  • A recent vaccine that causes a fever. The fever, not the vaccine, makes it easier to have the seizure.

There are 2 types of febrile seizures:

Simple (typical) This is the most common type. A child has 1 seizure in 24 hours that affects their whole body and lasts less than 15 minutes. 
Complex (atypical)
  • More than 1 seizure in 24 hours.
  • Seizure affects either 1 part or side of the body.
  • A seizure lasts more than 15 minutes.

During a febrile seizure, a child may:

  • Have irregular breathing.
  • Clench the teeth or jaw.
  • Pass out (lose consciousness).
  • Flutter their eyelids or roll their eyes.
  • Stiffen, jerk, or twitch their arm and leg muscles.
  • Pee (urinate) or poop (bowel movement) in their pants.

What You Can Do

You can’t make the seizure stop. Do your best to stay calm and keep your child safe.

  • If they’re sitting or standing, gently move them to the floor. Remove things nearby they may bump into, like a chair.febrile seizures
  • Lay them on their side and turn their head to face downward (Picture 1).
  • Loosen tight clothing. If your child wears glasses or hearing aids, remove them.
  • Look to see exactly how your child moves and responds to you, so you can describe it later. If your phone is close, take a video of it.
  • Write down how long the seizure lasts. If it’s less than 5 minutes, you don’t have to get emergency help. You can update your child’s doctor or health care provider for further direction. For seizures longer than 5 minutes, there may be medicine to give to stop the seizure.

What Not to Do

  • Do not try to open your child’s mouth or place anything between their teeth. This could injure their gums, break their teeth, or make it easier to choke.
  • Do not put your fingers into their mouth. They might bite them.
  • Do not try to stop the movements.
  • Do not use cold water or add rubbing alcohol to bath water to bring a fever down.
Call 911 if your child:
  • Has seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes. The emergency squad can give your child medicine to stop the seizure.
  • Has trouble breathing, and their skin or lips change color.
  • Chokes on vomit, blood, or other fluid (secretions).
  • Gets injured during a seizure and needs first aid.  
Call your child's doctor or health care provider if they:
  • Have a febrile seizure for the first time.
  • Have more than 1 febrile seizure.
  • Look very ill, are very fussy, or are hard to wake up.
  • Have a stiff neck, a bad headache, very sore throat, a painful stomach ache, an unusual rash.
  • Keep vomiting or have diarrhea.
  • Are younger than 2 months old and have a rectal temperature of 100.4○ Fahrenheit (F) or 38 Celsius (C) or higher.
  • Have a fever that comes back and lasts for 3 or more days.
  • Show signs of dehydration, like a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, or not peeing.

After a Seizure  

  • When the seizure stops, your child may:
    • Be tired and confused.
    • Have a headache.
    • Not remember having a seizure.
    • Be a little cranky.
    • Feel tired for a day or two.
  • You don't have to change your lifestyle or the way you care for your child after a febrile seizure.
  • Your child can safely sleep in their own crib or bed.
  • If your child is acting sick and has other signs of illness, follow their doctor or health care provider's advice as your normally would.
  • Typically, if your child has a febrile seizure, they don't need to go to a neurologist.


Fever and Seizures (Febrile Seizures) (PDF)

HH-I-195 • ©1998, revised 2023 • Nationwide Children's Hospital