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Name of Symptom/Sign:
ICD-10 R560
ICD-O: {{{ICDO}}}
ICD-9 780.31
OMIM 604352
MedlinePlus 000980
eMedicine neuro/134
DiseasesDB 4777

A febrile seizure, also known as a fever fit or febrile convulsion, is a convulsion associated with a significant rise in body temperature. They most commonly occur in children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years and are twice as common in boys as in girls.[1][2]


The direct cause of a febrile seizure is not known; however, it is normally precipitated by a recent upper respiratory infection or gastroenteritis. A febrile seizure is the effect of a sudden rise in temperature (>39°C/102°F) rather than a fever that has been present for a prolonged length of time.[2] Parents caring for children that may be febrile who wrap them up in warm blankets in an attempt to give comfort unknowingly increase their fever and therefore the risk. [citation needed]

Febrile seizures occurring in children between the ages of 6 months and about 6 years can be due to a hypersensitive hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for homeostatic core temperature regulation, (amongst other factors) and in younger children it is still a developing portion of the brain, meaning it is susceptible to hypersensitive reactions to slight raises in body temperature.

Febrile seizures represent the meeting point between a low seizure threshold (genetically and age-determined; some children have a greater tendency to have seizures under certain circumstances) and a trigger, which is fever. The genetic causes of febrile seizures are still being researched. Some mutations that cause a neuronal hyperexcitability (and could be responsible for febrile seizures) have already been discovered.[citation needed]

Several genetic associations have been identified.[3] These include:

Type OMIM Gene
FEB3A 604403 SCN1A
FEB3B 604403 SCN9A
FEB4 604352 GPR98
FEB8 611277 GABRG2

Certain forms are considered channelopathies.[4]


The diagnosis is one that must be arrived at by eliminating more serious causes of seizure and fever: in particular, meningitis and encephalitis must be considered. However, in locales in which children are immunized for pneumococcal and Haemophilus influenzae, the prevalence of bacterial meningitis is low. If a child has recovered and is acting normally, bacterial meningitis is very unlikely. The diagnosis of a febrile seizure should not prevent evaluation of the child for source of fever, although this is usually limited to evaluation of the urine in the younger age groups.


There are two types of febrile seizures.

  • A simple febrile seizure is one in which the seizure lasts less than 15 minutes (usually much less than this), does not recur in 24 hours, and involves the entire body (classically a generalized tonic-clonic seizure).
  • A complex febrile seizure is characterized by longer duration, recurrence, or focus on only part of the body.

The simple seizure represents the majority of cases and is considered to be less of a cause for concern than the complex.[citation needed]

Simple febrile seizures do not cause permanent brain injury; do not tend to recur frequently (children tend to outgrow them); and do not make the development of adult epilepsy significantly more likely (about 3–5%), compared with the general public (1%).[5] Children with [6] febrile convulsions are more likely to suffer from a febrile epileptic attack in the future if they have a complex febrile seizure, a family history of a febrile convulsions in first-degree relatives (a parent or sibling), or a preconvulsion history of abnormal neurological signs or developmental delay. There is an 80% chance that children who have complex febrile seizures will have seizures later on in life. Similarly, the prognosis after a simple febrile seizure is excellent, whereas an increased risk of death has been shown for complex febrile seizures, partly related to underlying conditions.[7]


During simple febrile seizures, the body will become stiff and the arms and legs will begin twitching. The patient loses consciousness, although their eyes remain open. Breathing can be irregular. They may become incontinent (wet or soil themselves); they may also vomit or have increased secretions (foam at the mouth). The seizure normally lasts for less than five minutes.[8]


The vast majority of patients do not require treatment for either their acute presentation with a seizure or for recurrences. Application of a damp sponge can help. When judged by a doctor to be indicated, anticonvulsants can be prescribed. Sodium valproate or clonazepam are active against febrile seizures, with sodium valproate showing superiority over clonazepam.[9]


  1. Lissauer, Tom. Illustrated Book of Paediatrics (3rd Ed).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Snider, Kathleen. ATI NurseNotes: Pediatrics (117) Overland Park: Lippincott Raven Publishers, 1998.
  3. Nakayama J, Arinami T (August 2006). Molecular genetics of febrile seizures. Epilepsy Res. 70 Suppl 1: S190–8.
  4. Catterall WA, Dib-Hajj S, Meisler MH, Pietrobon D (November 2008). Inherited Neuronal Ion Channelopathies: New Windows on Complex Neurological Diseases. J. Neurosci. 28 (46): 11768–77.
  5. Shinnar S, Glauser TA: Febrile Seizures. J Child Neurol 17S:S44, 2002
  7. Vestergaard M, Pedersen MG, Ostergaard JR, Pedersen CB, Olsen J, Christensen J (August 2008). Death in children with febrile seizures: a population-based cohort study. Lancet 372 (9637): 457–63.
  9. Steardo L, Florio C, Sorge F, Steardo R (June 1980). [DPA and clonazepam activity in febrile convulsions: preliminary results]. Boll. Soc. Ital. Biol. Sper. 56 (11): 1187–91.


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