Before you ask, no she’s not the forensic pathologist. Dr. G is this fantastic and fabulous human being that I have the honor of sharing the blogosphere with! While at BlissDom, we got to talking since the frog princess had been feverish right before my trip and I asked her a question that I wanted to share. It wasn’t until I went through my keywords recently that I realized how many people were searching for information on febrile seizures.
Dr. G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) has been empowering parents around the country to increase their knowledge and to utilize the parenting instincts they already have, but have been dampened by stress, doubt and guilt, so that they may raise their kids to be people they respect and admire.
Here is my question and her response:
Our daughter has febrile seizures. Whenever she gets a fever (even a low grade one) we treat her with acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen. It’s scary to think that she could have another one. However, I know that normally, I wouldn’t treat a fever like this unless it gets to be over 101. Should we continue to treat any fevers that happen in the future? Seeing her seize was the hardest thing to go through and we are scared that she’ll have more. Thanks, Dr. G!
First off, sweet mama, let me say that I completely understand how scary it is to watch your child have a seizure. A febrile seizure can last up to 15 minutes, which can take about 10 years off the life expectancy of an adult watching it happen! So that brings me to the most important part of this answer.
Febrile seizures are scary but NOT dangerous!
For your readers, let me explain a little about this. Febrile seizures are different than epilepsy. This is a full body (general) seizure that occurs in a child, usually between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old. The seizure starts as a brain reaction to a fever, and does not only happen with high temperatures. The seizure only happens once in a 24 hour period and usually doesn’t happen again during that same illness. The best news of all: febrile seizures do not cause any type of developmental delay or neurological damage!
However, you’re right that she may have another. 32% of kids who have one febrile seizure will have them again before the age of 5.
So the good news is, this kind of seizure is not dangerous in the moment (unless she falls and hits her head on something – and this is really rare, kids are usually already lying on the couch or bed because they’re not feeling well), and will not cause long term problems. Except, of course, heart failure in the parent from worrying.
Here is the answer to your question: Stop giving her medicine at the first sign of a fever. It doesn’t help. In a large studies of children with a history of a febrile seizure, administering fever-lowering medicine did not prevent the recurrence of a seizure. That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics gives it’s highest level of recommendation to NOT giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen to prevent febrile seizures.
Why not just give it anyway to make her more comfortable while she’s sick? Because fever is your friend. Having a fever will help kill the virus or other germs that are making her sick, and she’ll get better faster.
I know that this is hard advice to follow. The truth is, though, the medicine you’re giving her is only treating your worry, not her risk. If you’re still highly stressed, take a first aid and CPR for kids class. Kids don’t die during febrile seizures (again, big studies that show no increased risk) but it may help you feel more in control. Knowledge is power!
*and because we know this has to be said, check out the legal disclaimer in regards to this advice: Dr. G is NOT your doctor.