What to Know About Febrile Seizures

Anatomy of a Seizure


Brian Maranan Pineda

Even if you know what a seizure looks like, you may have no idea what's happening inside your baby's skull to cause it, and it certainly seems like something bad. But doctors say that in order to cause brain damage, a fever would have to be upward of 107?F, and regardless, a seizure doesn't signal that brain damage is occurring.

Essentially, any seizure is a surge or short circuit of electricity in the brain. Jing Kang, M.D., Ph.D., a seizure researcher at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, suggests you think of your child's brain as a bustling city of electrical circuits: "The brain has billions of neurons creating and receiving electrical impulses. These impulses are how different parts of the brain communicate with each other. But any abnormal electrical discharge can result in a seizure."

It's not clear why seizures are more apt to occur in a young child, says Dr. Kang, "but it's likely related to the fact that the brain is growing so quickly." The amount of stimulation a brain can tolerate before a circuit overloads is called the "seizure threshold." A 3-year-old's brain is twice as active as the brain of an average adult, and with that activity comes a lower seizure threshold than that of an adult.

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