My 16 Month-Old Son’s Febrile Seizure

16 months.

Exactly one hour into being 16 months-old, my son had a seizure due to his quick rise in temperature to 105.5 degrees. Last Thursday night, both my wife and I separately tried to prepare ourselves for the fact we may be spending the last final moments with our son.

When I put Jack to bed Thursday night at 6:41 PM, his temperature seemed fine. He was a bit more tired than normal but I blamed that on Daylight Savings.

At 10:00 PM, my wife and I were finishing up the dishes after having just watched two episodes of Lost when we heard Jack screaming (!) upstairs. We rushed into his room to learn his temperature was 105.5. We took off his clothes, placed a wet wash rag on him, and gave him a dose of Children’s Advil.

I called the pediatrician who told me we did everything right; as long as his temperature started going back down and he went back to sleep, that we shouldn’t worry too much.

That was the case, so my wife and I were in bed by 11:30 PM.

Exactly 90 minutes passed. Before I trained Jack to sleep through the night at 7 months-old and he would wake up every couple of hours, I hardly ever was the first to hear him cry. But this time was different.

My feet were on the floor and running after about one second of the eery sound I heard coming from Jack’s bedroom. The urgency of my reaction woke up my wife and she was right behind me.

What we saw next did nothing short of traumatize us a bit. We will never forget the version of our son that night.

As I tried to pick him up out of his bed, it was like he was trying to suffocate himself into his blanket, face first. He was rocking back and forth like he was possessed by something evil.

We carried him onto our bed. I called 911 (for the first time in my 30 years) and my wife kept watch over him.

By the end of the 8 minute phone call, two paramedics charged in. They gave us some relief after telling us that they see this happen all the time and that while we didn’t need to fear for his life, he needed to be rushed by ambulance to Vanderbilt.

From 1:30 AM to 4:30 AM, we watched the doctors care for our son. We learned that he had an ear infection, which caused the quick rise in temperature, which caused the febrile seizure.

Jack is of the 2% of the population who may go into this type of seizure when his temperature rises quickly. According to the doctors, there is a 30% chance this will happen again, but these seizures do not cause any long-term effects or brain damage.

Sure enough, since then, he has been his hilarious, weird, smart little self.

We thank the Lord this event was something so harmless, in the end. But when you’re experiencing it for the first time, and you’ve never heard of a febrile seizure and don’t know how to react, you can’t help but feel a big part of you dying.

There’s no way to know any different, in that moment. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever lived through.

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  1. by Jane

    On March 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Can’t imagine how this whole episode would make a parent feel. Good thing is: both parents and kid make it out more knowledgeable and stronger.

  2. by Lisa N.

    On March 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    We had a similar experience just over a year ago with my then 27 month old. He also had the most unusual scream duri the night that sent my husband and I running. Like you we did not know what to think and we’re extremely panicked and scares. Good news, today he is a happy and healthy toddler. Although I do aggressively treat fevers! Good luck!

  3. by Carli (@tinysavages)

    On March 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Nick – I found this post via twitter and just wanted to show you and your wife some support. My now three year old son endured one of these at 20 months and it was harrowing. Whilst we’ll never forget it, fortunately the images have faded with time x

  4. by aly

    On March 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    The same thing happened to my then 22 month old boy, then it happened again at 25 months and also it was because of ear infections (he was in daycare at the time) both times I was by myself and he was in my arms, it was the most horrible thing even the 2nd time when I knew it could happen again… thankfully he’s been ear infections free since the last time
    (june ’11) I am a sahm now and never regret it because after that I dont want to see him go through that again….

  5. by Kristin Bailey Gardner

    On March 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Nick, Hayes had a febrile seizure last year and it was the worst thing I have ever experienced. I still have problems getting the vision of what he looked like convulsing out of my head. I thought I had researched or had atleast heard of all the “medical dangers”, and can’t believe I knew nothing about something that is supposedly so common. There is nothing worse than the moment of helplessness when you think there’s a possibility that your child could die and you have no idea what is happening, much less what to do to save them. Thank you for raising awareness of febrile seizures, so that more parents can be prepared with the knowledge that it can happen to any child who suddenly spikes a high fever. I am so sorry that y’all had to go through that, but so glad that Jack was back to his sweet self so soon!

  6. by Nick Shell

    On March 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks Kristin. You know exactly how I feel!

  7. by Dave

    On May 4, 2012 at 11:20 pm


    My wife and I know how you felt. We are still working through it with our 16 month old daughter. We had never heard of febrile seizures either. First time was a reaction to vaccines, something to be mindful of. Anna hit 104.5 and was convulsing in my arms as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. Then Easter she apparently caught a virus and had on at 6:30 and after a mad dash to the emergency room she we got her fever down and were sent home. Before we could get into her pediatrician for a follow up she had a second seizure and back to the hospital we went. Turns out an even smaller population of kids have what are called complex febrile seizures, those lasting longer in duration or more than one in 24 hours. She had a third which convinced our pediatrician to send us over to a different hospital that had a pediatric neuro unit. After special tests came back negative the diagnosis remained fever driven seizures.

    They outgrow them by age six. She just had another one yesterday while I was away on business. Awful. Now we are watching her temp around the clock and alternating ibuprofen and acetmephren. Our daughter seems susceptible so we will have to be on our toes until age 5 or 6. The good news is the seizures do not have any lasting effect and the child doesn’t remember a thing but us parents are not as resilient.

  8. by Nick Shell

    On May 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Dave, I can’t imagine what that must be like for you!

  9. by Kelly McCoy

    On June 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    My daughter had her first seizure a week before her 1st birthday. I had no idea what was happening but I tried to stay calm while my husband was on the phone with the hospital. Dr. also told us she should outgrow them by the time she is 6 years old. She had a second one lastvnight but it wasn’t near as bad as her first one. I’m so glad I now know how to handle the situation. I wish I could erase the image from my head of how helpless she looks when she goes through these.

  10. [...] it was a year ago today that you had your febrile seizure. You haven’t had another one since; in fact, the last time you were even sick at all was last [...]

  11. [...] It seems like only a year ago that you had your febrile seizure. [...]