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Febrile convulsions

Read our guide below to help you understand more about febrile convulsions.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

What are febrile convulsions?

Febrile convulsions or febrile seizures can sometimes happen when a child has a feverish illness with a temperature of over 38C. They involve the body or limb jerking with a loss of consciousness.

Febrile convulsions can seem frightening but they’re unlikely to cause harm. They’re common in children aged 1 to 5 years and happen in about 1 in 30 children who have a fever. Most commonly febrile convulsions happen between 6 months and 3 years old.

Febrile convulsions are not epilepsy. 99 out of 100 children with febrile convulsions don’t have convulsions after they reach school age or without a fever

When do they happen and how long do they last?

They often occur on the first day of an illness with fever. There seems to be no connection between the extent of the fever and convulsions so they can happen even with mild fevers.

Febrile convulsions happen with any illness which causes a temperature, typically a cold or other viral infection.

Simple febrile convulsions generally last less than 5 minutes.

What happens when my child has a febrile convulsion?

Their whole body becomes stiff before all 4 limbs start jerking. They may become unconscious. Your child may be sleepy afterwards but should return to their normal self within a couple of hours.

Will my child have another convulsion?

1 in 3 children who have febrile convulsions may have further convulsions with febrile illnesses in the future. The risk of having another one reduces after the age of 3 years.

Regular treatment to prevent future seizures isn’t usually necessary.

If your child has a simple febrile convulsion, with a clear infection that causes their fever, and you and the medical team are happy, you can look after them at home.

What should I do if my child has a convulsion?

You should:

  • place them on their side on a soft surface with their face turned to one side. This will stop them inhaling any vomit and keep their airway protected
  • stay with your child and note what time their seizure starts and stops
  • never put anything in your child’s mouth, or attempt to slap or shake them out of it
  • call your GP or NHS 111 for advice if the seizure lasts less than 5 minutes but you’re worried
  • call 999 or go to your nearest Emergency Department if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.

The hospital may have given you medicine to put into your child’s mouth or bottom. If the convulsion continues for more than 5 minutes (by the clock), give this medicine as stated on the label.
This should stop the convulsion within 10 minutes. If it doesn’t, bring them to hospital (dial 999 if necessary).

Tell your doctor what happened.

Can febrile convulsions be prevented?

It’s not clear if controlling a fever will prevent febrile convulsion. Keep a child cool when they have a feverish illness which will make them feel more comfortable. Invest in a good thermometer and check for a fever if they feel hot.

Ways to control a fever include:

  • using either paracetamol or ibuprofen in distressed children with a fever
  • removing your child’s clothing to a vest and pants
  • frequent cool drinks
  • using electric fans to cool the air but not directed straight onto your child.

Do not give your child a cool bath or tepid sponging. This brings the outer body temperature down too quickly and can increase the inner body temperature.

When should I get help?

Advice for parents/carers taking their child home after seeing a doctor.

Get urgent help

Call 999 or go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department if your child:

  • has another seizure in the current illness lasting more than 5 minutes and/or doesn’t recover rapidly afterwards
  • becomes extremely agitated, confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
  • becomes pale, mottled, and feels abnormally cold to touch
  • turns blue around the lips and/or has abnormal breathing
  • develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘glass test’).

Call your GP surgery NHS 111

Your child should see a medical professional on the same day if they:

  • have another febrile convulsion (for less than 5 minutes) in the current illness
  • stay drowsy or lethargic for more than an hour after their seizure
  • have weakness in their arms or legs, visual difficulties (double vision) or difficulty speaking after the seizure stops
  • moves one side of the body more than the other, or is stiff on one side compared with the other
  • seem dehydrated (sunken eyes, drowsy or no urine passed for 12 hours)
  • become drowsy or irritable (unable to settle with toys, TV, food or picking up), especially if they stay drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down
  • continue to have a fever of 38C or above for more than 5 days
  • get worse or you’re worried.

Care for your child at home

You can do this if they don’t have any of the symptoms above.

If you’re still worried, call 111.

How can I help reduce healthcare associated infections?

Infection prevention and control is important to the wellbeing of our patients so we have procedures in place. Keeping your hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infections.

You, and anyone visiting you, must use the hand sanitiser available at the entrance to every ward before coming in and after you leave. You may need to wash your hands at the sink using soap and water. Hand sanitisers are not suitable for dealing with patients who have symptoms of diarrhoea.

More help or advice

Contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 01296 316042 or

About our patient information

We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it’s subject to change. You must always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.