What I Wish I Knew About Febrile Seizures

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We can’t learn everything about parenting in advance, but there’s one thing I wish I had been prepared for. The febrile seizure. Why are parents not talking about this?!

The First Febrile Seizure

On the evening of December 20, 2018, everything was completely normal in our house. There were no sick children. My husband and I put our daughter and 18-month-old son to sleep, watched some TV, and went bed.

At 11 pm, we woke up to the sound of my son screaming. Now, this was a fairly normal occurrence, so we didn’t panic right away. However, this screaming was more intense than usual, and it almost never happened so early in the night. 

My husband brought him to me to nurse, and I immediately felt his body start twitching. I had NO previous experience with seizures, but I knew instantly what was happening.

My husband flipped the light on, and I saw my sweet, beautiful boy with his eyes rolling into his head and his body twitching uncontrollably. My husband dialed 911 and I talked to them without taking my eyes off of him for a second.

Shortly after the operator started talking to me, the seizure stopped. My son started crying, but his eyes were constantly looking up and not focused. He wasn’t responding to anything I did, and I believed 100% that something was seriously, permanently wrong and that our lives would never be the same

I rode the ambulance with my son riding in the car seat–still constantly crying, unable to focus his eyes, and not moving otherwise. I tried to talk to him, stroke him, even nurse him (yes, in the moving ambulance, standing, with the EMTs beside me. Motherhood is glorious.). But he wasn’t there.

When we got to the hospital, I was really surprised to find that the hospital staff was not rushing around and yelling like in Grey’s Anatomy. WHERE WAS DR. HUNT?! Shouldn’t they be, like, A LOT more concerned?

In all reality, I probably waited for all of one minute and 42 seconds, but in my mental state, that was an ETERNITY. 

Finally (ha), when they took him into triage, they found that his temp was 103.9. It was only a few more minutes before they got us a bed, and a doctor came in and told us they believed this was a febrile seizure.

What I Wish I Knew About Febrile Seizures

Keep in mind that I am NOT a doctor or anyone you should trust with medical information. I’m just a mom who was scared out of her right mind because I wasn’t aware of these facts. Hopefully, they can help you be prepared if you have to experience the same thing.

Febrile seizures are somewhat common.

More specifically, they’re common in kids between 6 months and 5 years old. I repeat: WHY HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF THEM?!

They are caused by fevers that spike quickly.

In my case, my son wasn’t even sick when we put him to bed. And since this time, both of my kids have had fevers higher than 104 without having a febrile seizure. It has less to do with the actual temperature, and more to do with the speed of the body temperature increasing or decreasing.

Expect a postictal period.

This is the period after the seizure when the child is not fully conscious and can feel drowsy, confused, and nauseous. It usually lasts between five and thirty minutes. I saw this firsthand, and I personally feel that it is almost as scary as the seizure if you do not know what is happening.

Febrile seizures are harmless.

These are the words of my doctor and Mayo Clinic, meaning that they don’t actually cause any damage to their brains and don’t have any lasting effects. THANK GOODNESS.

However, I would argue that they are not harmless to the parents. I can’t see fevers as “just fevers” anymore. Every time my kids get strep, an ear infection, or just a random low-grade fever, I can’t be calm. I’m aware that this could easily happen again, and I’ll do everything I can to avoid that. However:

You can’t stop them in advance.

There is no way to see one coming, and no magic “prevent febrile seizure” medicine. The only thing you can do is watch for fever and keep it down with children’s Tylenol or Motrin. (Again: check with your doctor about this!)

They will recover quickly.

Even though I was convinced that things would never be the same, I was very thankful to be wrong. In my case, my son fell asleep on me very soon after getting our bed. After a few hours of sleep, he woke up and was 100% his normal, silly self. He didn’t even have a fever!

You might not get a warning.

Even though my son woke up screaming before he actually had a seizure, there is no guarantee that they will alert you before it happens. I know that sounds terrifying, but being aware is the best way to be prepared. 

 

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