In a matter of seconds, Kelly Herrmann’s son Howie went from sleeping in her arms to having a seizure.
She recognized he was having a seizure but didn’t know why.
“I was holding him, and he started to turn blue and stopped breathing. I honestly thought he was dying in my arms,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Howie’s day care called Herrmann and said he had a fever. Little did Herrmann or her husband Seth Moser know, a fever in children sometimes causes what’s known as a febrile seizure.
Febrile seizure, explained
Mohamad Saifeddine, M.D., is a pediatric neurology specialist at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He said sometimes a febrile seizure can be caused from a brain infection but oftentimes, like in Howie’s case, it’s caused from a fever.
“A febrile seizure is a seizure that happens in the setting of fever. That means the seizure itself is abnormal firing of electricity in the brain, that spreads throughout the brain and causes the child to have different movements and being unconscious,” he said.
How common are febrile seizures?
Dr. Saifeddine said it’s actually a very common condition in children, particularly in children between the ages of one and a half years old to three years of age.
“Statistically, it’s up to 2-5% of kids actually going to have at least one febrile seizure in their lifetime,” he said.
These types of seizures typically last one to two minutes, but “it can be shorter and unfortunately it can be longer,” Dr. Saifeddine explained.
If a seizure lasts longer than three to five minutes, it’s called a “status.” Meaning, the prolonged seizure is not stopping by itself.
“That’s when we need to ask or seek medical help for any parents. That’s when parents should come to the ER or call 911,” he said.
What if my child is having a febrile seizure?
According to Dr. Saifeddine, the most important thing a parent can do when their child is having a seizure, whether it’s febrile or not, “is to put the child on their side.”
“Do not put anything in their mouth, and make sure that the child doesn’t have something sharp or hard under their head, so if the child is actually seizing, meaning they’re having whole-body jerking, they won’t hit their head with something that can injure themself,” he said.
He said it can be an extremely difficult thing to remember to do, but he recommends someone checks the time while the child is having the seizure.
“If the seizure is more than two or three minutes and the child is not waking up, somebody (then) has to call 911.”
‘It was confusing and also a relief’
When Howie was having his febrile seizure, Hermann rushed over to her neighbors, Howie still blue in her arms, and asked them to call 911.
Thankfully, when the ambulance arrived, Howie’s febrile seizure had stopped. The EMT explained to Herrmann that Howie most likely had a febrile seizure, and that it was very common.
Herrmann, having never heard of a febrile seizure or that it’s often caused by a fever, had questions swirling.
“If it was so common, how did I not know what that was? His fever was so low. It 100.4, and even in the ambulance, it was still only 100.5 or so. So, in my mind it just didn’t make sense, because yes, he had a fever, but just barely. It wasn’t anything too high,” Hermann said.
“So, it was like a relief, but also I was still confused. I was still worried that something was wrong. I was worried he was going to have another one. Despite learning more from the care team, it was still really confusing and scary,” she added.
Howie is home and doing just fine, a relief to is entire family.
Herrmann said her take home message for parents is to know febrile seizures exist and be prepared if their child has one.
“Don’t put anything in their mouth, and try to keep the airway open. Pay attention to how long it’s lasting, because if it lasts a really long time, that can be a problem.”
- Children under 12 at ‘very real risk’ of COVID infection now
- Your top 10 Googled questions about kids and the flu
- Infant colds: What’s normal and what’s not