What to Know About Febrile Seizures

Vaccines and Seizures

You may have heard about a connection between febrile seizures and vaccinations, specifically the combined measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine (MMRV). Studies found that 1- to 2-year-olds who received the MMRV combination vaccine were slightly more likely to have febrile seizures that those who received the MMR and varicella vaccines separately -- probably related to the fact that infants have a higher rate of fever after the MMRV than they do after having MMR and varicella vaccines as separate injections. The American Academy of Pediatrics allows pediatricians to give either MMR or MMRV, but if they want to give MMRV as the first dose they need to inform families about the risks and let parents decide whether they want their child to receive an additional injection or have the slightly increased risk of a febrile seizure. (The second dose of MMRV, given between 4 and 6 years, is not associated with a higher risk of febrile seizures.)

Nicola Klein, M.D., codirector of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, California, advises parents to put the issue in perspective: "The overall risk for febrile seizures after any measles-containing vaccine is low -- less than one febrile seizure per 1,000 injections. It is more common for a child to have a febrile seizure caused by a simple cold than by an immunization." Still concerned? Talk to your pediatrician.

Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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