What to Know About Febrile Seizures

Recognizing the Problem

A child having a simple febrile seizure, which may also be known as a grand mal seizure, can lose consciousness (while still breathing) and then become rigid as muscles on both sides of his body contract. Often, his eyes roll upward. He may moan or grunt and lose control of his bladder. His muscles jerk rhythmically, and he may not respond to voices. I found it very frightening that my daughter's eyes were open during her seizure, but she didn't seem to be present behind them. For me, the only thing scarier was when her skin turned pale and mottled, and the area around her lips took on an alarming bluish tinge, making me think she wasn't getting any oxygen -- which prompted me to call 911. But according to Dr. Joshi, breathing irregularities are another item in the horrifying-but-expected category: Children may still be taking in air, if irregularly, and spells of seizure-induced breath-holding are usually too brief to be a serious concern. (This is reassuring, but if I had it to do over, I'd still call 911. Any kid of mine who stops breathing earns herself an ambulance ride.)

A simple febrile seizure can go on for as long as ten minutes. But most last just a few minutes, and many are over in seconds. The seconds can seem to stretch on indefinitely, or the episode may pass so quickly that you aren't sure what you saw. Once the seizure has passed, your child may seem disoriented but should return to normal within half an hour. He's likely to be exhausted as well, and this may last into the next day.

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