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Infant and Child Health

Fever Convulsions

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Fever convulsions (febrile seizures) are uncontrolled muscle spasms that can happen while a child's temperature is rapidly rising (sometimes the convulsion occurs before you are even aware that the child has a fever). Once a child's fever has reached a high temperature, the risk of a convulsion is probably over.

A child who is having a fever convulsion will lose consciousness. The child's muscles will stiffen, and his or her teeth will clench. Then the child's arms and legs will start to jerk. The child's eyes may roll back,

and he or she may stop breathing for a few seconds. The child might also vomit, urinate, or pass stools. Convulsions usually last 1 to 5 minutes.

Although frightening, fever convulsions in children age 6 months to 4 years are seldom serious and do not cause harm. Two to 4 percent of children in this age group are prone to fever convulsions. About 30 percent of children who have a fever convulsion will have another one in the future.

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

Hand-foot-mouth disease is a viral illness that affects many children under 10 as well as young adults. It usually develops during the summer and fall months. Fever, sore throat or mouth, and loss of appetite are early symptoms. Within 2 days, blisters form in the mouth and on the tongue. In children, a painless, blistering rash often develops on the fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. Infants may also develop a red rash on the buttocks.

There is no treatment for hand-foot-mouth disease other than to give acetaminophen to reduce fever and mouth pain and to make sure the person drinks plenty of fluids. Offer soft, bland foods and cool or warm (not hot) beverages. Frozen fruit pops may help relieve mouth soreness.

The virus that causes hand-foot-mouth disease is easily spread, so a person should not go to day care, school, or work while symptoms are present. All symptoms should go away after about 1 week. The virus is spread through contact with mouth and nasal fluids and stools, so careful hand washing after blowing a runny nose or changing a diaper is important.

Home Treatment

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During a convulsion:

  • Try to stay calm, because that will help calm the child.

  • Protect the child from injury. Ease the child to the floor, or hold a very small child face down on your lap. Do not restrain the child.

  • Turn the child onto his or her side. This will help clear the mouth of any vomit or saliva and will keep the airway open so the child can breathe.

  • Do not put anything in the child's mouth to prevent tongue biting, because it may injure the child.

  • Time the length of the convulsion, if possible.

After a convulsion:

  • If the child is having difficulty breathing, turn his or her head to the side and, using your finger, gently clear the mouth of any vomit or saliva so the child can breathe.

  • Check for injuries.

  • Reduce the fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen and lukewarm sponge baths. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20.

  • Put the child in a cool room to sleep. Drowsiness is common following a convulsion. Check the child often. The child should return to his or her normal behaviour and activity level within 60 minutes of the convulsion.

When to Call a Health Professional

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Call 911 or seek emergency services:

  • If the child stops breathing for longer than 30 to 60 seconds. Begin rescue breathing (See Rescue Breathing and CPR).

  • If a convulsion lasts longer than 5 minutes, or if a second convulsion occurs.

Call your family doctor or paediatrician:

  • If the child is younger than 6 months of age, is 6 years old or older, or if the convulsion only affects one side of the body.

  • If fever occurs with vomiting, severe headache, sleepiness, lethargy, stiff neck, or a bulging soft spot on an infant's head. See "Encephalitis and Meningitis" on See Encephalitis and Meningitis.

  • If a convulsion occurs without fever.

  • If it is the child's first convulsion, or if you haven't discussed with your doctor what to do if there is another one.

  • If you are unable to reduce fever to below 38.3°C (101°F) after a convulsion.

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