Doctors raise awareness about febrile seizures

About 30 percent of children who experience febrile seizure will have recurrence

DAVIE, Fla. – June 16 seemed like any other day for little Parker Palma. His mother said he was his usual playful self with the exception of a runny nose.

"It just seemed like maybe he was catching a cold," Nikole Palma said.

The following morning it was a different story, when 3-year-old Parker's temperature suddenly spiked.

"He started to kick his feet a little bit and was laying on his side and I said, 'Parker, calm down. It's not a big deal,' and then I realized he was convulsing. He wasn't just kicking his feet, he was convulsing. I picked him up and he was foaming at the mouth, his eyes rolled back in his head and he was completely unresponsive."

Parker was rushed to the hospital where doctors told Palma her son was having a febrile seizure.

Warning signs include foaming at the mouth, turning blue, vomiting and incontinence.  

A febrile seizure can last up to 15 minutes. If it lasts longer, it's considered a complex febrile seizure.

Dr. Francis Amador, of Salah Children's Hospital at Broward Health Medical Center, said the good news is there are no lasting effects.

"It doesn't leave any trace, no mental retardation. The child will go to college. It's just a short circuit of the brain caused by a fever that triggers a convulsion," Amador said.

While febrile seizures are always caused by a high fever, Amador said not every fever will lead to a seizure.

"The same fever in one kid won't cause febrile seizures on another kid," he said.

Approximately 30 percent of children who experience one febrile seizure will have a recurrence.

Palma knows she can't prevent it, but takes comfort in being aware of how to handle it.

"Just knowing what to do when someone is having a seizure is important," she said.

Amador said if a child is having a seizure do not put anything in the mouth and do not use ice-cold water or rubbing alcohol in an attempt to reduce the fever.

Instead, turn the child on their side to avoid choking, swab gently with lukewarm towels and administer children's Tylenol rectally to reduce the fever.

About the Authors: