When a fever turns serious: febrile seizures

The 23rd of March started out like most others with kindy and day-care drop off and off to work. When picking up my 17-month-old daughter, Mia, from care, the carers told me that she had been a bit grizzly, so I thought that I would whip her to the doctors to have her ears and throat checked (suffers reoccurring ear infections). We got the all clear from the doctor, so we came home and did our normal evening routine and popped Mia to bed. After about an hour of being put down an awful blood curdling scream came from Mia’s bedroom. Both of us only took a second to get into Mia’s room to see her lying on her side, eyes rolled back, rigid and seizing in her bed. Within another second I had her in my arms, on her side, told Matt to call an ambulance, and my mind started whirring through reasons why this could be happening! Looking back on this moment as scary as it was, we both knew that we wanted help and just had to wait it out. We were both calm and focused until her lips started going blue (we didn’t know at the time this is also common in febrile seizures). This moment was when the sickening panic set in and we both thought that we were going to lose our baby girl. Tears and painfully long seconds passed and then she just became completely still, and she took a deep breath. Her eyes were still semi-rolled and she seemed a bit confused. It was like she was trying to get back to sleep. The ambulance finally arrived, and they assessed her while she lay trying to sleep in my arms. A nice cool flannel to the head and hair helped soothe her back to sleep. They took her temperature and she was 38.3 degrees at that point. This was where I got confused as I thought that extremely high temperatures caused seizures in children and Mia had been a lot warmer than 38.3 before. So, our minds started going to other places to try and understand why our youngest daughter, who got the all clear from the doctor earlier that day just randomly seized in her bed, for no reason. The ambulance crew also could not find any obvious reason, so they recommended a trip to the hospital just to have bacterial infections ruled out. Thank goodness for family living so close, so they could stay with our eldest (who witnessed most of it) and we could both head to the hospital to be with Mia. In the ambulance they kept using the word febrile which I had no idea what that meant, to me she just looked drowsy. Once we got to hospital Mia’s temperature had raised up to 39.6 and they kept saying febrile and told us that she was severely dehydrated. So, it was our mission to syringe feed her pedialyte to help bring her temperature down. Febrile literally means having or showing the symptoms of a fever. A febrile seizure is a convulsion in a child that may be caused by a spike in body temperature (fever).

We were out at the hospital all of three and a half hours while they assessed her, watched her temperature, tried to get urine samples and while we tried our very best to get her to sleep. So incredibly hard at a noisy, bright hospital! A paediatrician came in to assess and looked in her ears and told us that she had a raging ear infection in her right ear. Ear infections can onset incredibly fast we have since learnt! Once pneumonia and other bacterial infections were ruled out the paediatrician was certain that her sudden spike in temperature was caused from the ear infection and that this sudden spike triggered a febrile seizure. The paediatrician was incredibly kind and reinforced to us that these types of seizures are very common in young children and are not to be confused with epileptic seizures. Febrile seizures have no lasting effects and do not last any longer than five minutes. Again, our minds whirred with all this new information and trying to process what we had to witness happen to our baby girl. After an ice block and four hours since her seizure our girl was back to her normal self like nothing had happened! Just poor Mum and Dad remaining scarred from it all.

The week after the seizure was full of anxiety, uncertainty and worry for another possible seizure to happen. Another thing about febrile seizures is that once one happens, there is a 50% chance that they may suffer from another when their temperature spikes again. It is how their little bodies cope when they haven’t quite learnt to regulate their temperature yet. We have had a paediatrician appointment since where they made sure that we felt okay and confident if another was to happen and that we also knew what to do. This appointment was incredibly helpful just to talk through what did happen and having someone make you feel like you did the right thing for your child and that you will continue to do so was a great support. It also helped to calm the horrific blue-lipped image in my head.

Mia has had two significant temperatures since her first febrile seizure and the first we were incredibly vigilant and even though the worry was there, there was no second febrile event. We invested in a Braun ear thermometer, which helped with the anxiety over the temperatures and helped us keep track of them. The second temperature which happened just the other week was three days of 39-40.3 and her little body spiked again, and she had another febrile seizure in her car seat (she had been to the doctor on the first day of high temperatures and had a red ear, nothing to warrant medicine then). Matt was with Mia this time and using the knowledge we had learnt since the first one, completely stripped her, got home as quick as he could, gave pain relief, and tried to get as much fluids in her as possible. Her febrile state only lasted half an hour this time, so he felt confident enough not to rush her off to hospital and instead went to our GP that afternoon. Another ear infection, same ear and tonsils full of pus. I feel so incredibly sorry for our brave little girl. To date she has had 15 ear infections but as we are now back on the ear, nose and throat waiting list we are hopeful she won’t have to wait too long now!

As scary as febrile seizure sounds, now that we are equipped with more knowledge, we feel more confident and prepared for them to happen. They are likely to still happen as well, until Mia’s body is ready to regulate her temperatures. It hasn’t consumed our lives, we carry on just like anyone else getting through their day, but we wanted to share our story in the hopes that maybe it might help one person become more aware and understand what a febrile seizure is in case they were to experience one themselves or if they knew of anyone that they could share this story with.


For more information about febrile seizures you can visit these links:



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