A febrile seizure (febrile convulsion or fit) can sometimes happen when a child has a high temperature. It's not usually serious, but it's important to get medical help if your child has a seizure.
A febrile seizure can seem frightening, but it's unlikely to harm your child or cause long-term effects.
Check if it's a febrile seizure
A febrile seizure can happen when a child has a high temperature (fever).
Your child may:
- become stiff and twitch, shake, or have jerking movements
- become unconscious
- not respond or look at you when you talk to them
- be sick or pee (wet themselves)
- be sleepy, irritable or confused for up to 1 hour afterwards
Febrile seizures usually last for 2 to 3 minutes. It's rare for them to last more than 10 minutes.
They usually affect children between 6 months and 6 years old.
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if your child:
- has a seizure for the first time
- has a seizure that lasts more than 5 minutes
- is having difficulty breathing
- has stiffness and twitching on only 1 side of their body
- is more sleepy than usual for more than 1 hour after the seizure stops
- has more than 1 seizure within 24 hours
Do not take your child to A&E if they are still having a seizure or are unconscious, call 999 instead.
What to do if your child is having a febrile seizure
If your child is having a febrile seizure, it's important to keep them safe while you wait for medical help.
check the time the seizure starts and ends
protect their head with your hands or something soft
remove any dangerous objects that are nearby
after the seizure ends, put your child in the recovery position and make sure there is nothing in their mouth or throat that might affect their breathing
do not move your child or try to hold them in place
do not put anything in your child's mouth
do not try to lower your child's temperature by undressing them or sponging them with cold water
Treatment for febrile seizures
Most febrile seizures do not need treatment. But your child will need to be checked in hospital after having a febrile seizure for the first time. They may also need to stay in hospital for a short time.
Your child may need some tests, including:
- blood tests
- pee (urine) test
- a lumbar puncture – where a sample of fluid is taken from the spine and checked for bacteria or viruses
If an infection is causing your child's high temperature, they may need medicine to treat it.
Treatment for recurrent febrile seizures
Very rarely, a child may keep having febrile seizures.
If this happens, your doctor may prescribe a medicine to give to your child while they're having a seizure. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to use it.
Preventing febrile seizures
You cannot prevent febrile seizures. They can sometimes happen when your child has an infection and a high temperature.
Febrile seizures and epilepsy
Febrile seizures are not the same thing as epilepsy.
Children who have had a febrile seizure have a slightly increased chance of having epilepsy later in life, but this is rare.
Page last reviewed: 21 June 2023
Next review due: 21 June 2026