Febrile Seizures: What Every Parent Needs to Know
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, just a Mom who learned more about this than I ever wanted to. Please speak to your doctor if you have any questions about febrile seizures.
November 19, 2015 was the scariest day of my life.
It started like a normal day. It was a Thursday. My husband and I were both at work and the boys were at daycare. Work was busy for me, so I didn’t stop for lunch until about 2:00. When I did, like I often do, I went out to run an errand.
I checked my phone on the way into a store, then spent about 10 minutes looking at something for the kids. I found what I needed and headed towards the till, taking my phone out of my purse to pull up a coupon.
When I looked at my phone, after only 10 minutes in the store, I had more than 10 missed calls and messages. From daycare, from unknown numbers, from my husband, from my Mom, and from my brother. I can’t even begin to describe for you my utter and complete panic in that moment.
Shaking and running out of the store, I called my husband, “What happened??” He told me that one of our sons had a seizure at daycare, and was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance. Daycare hadn’t been able to reach either of us, so they were making their way down our emergency contact list.
I don’t need to tell you about the worst case scenarios that ran through my head during that panicked drive to the hospital. My son was completely fine when we dropped him off at daycare that morning. He wasn’t sick, he didn’t have a fever – there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary that would suggest something was wrong.
My husband, my brother and I all converged at the hospital, beating the ambulance there. After an agonizing wait, the ambulance arrived, and my poor, lethargic little guy was whisked inside. I don’t recall much of the next few minutes, but I remember with absolute clarity the moment I heard the doctor say, “He’s febrile.”
Febrile. I knew what that meant. I’d heard of febrile seizures, but always thought that they only happened when a child was very sick, and their temperature got extremely high. I was wrong.
Febrile seizures can be caused by a rapid increase in body temperature. A child does not necessarily have to have an extremely high temperature to have a febrile seizure.
My son had a low grade fever by the time his temperature was taken at the hospital. It was high enough to register as febrile, but nothing that would have caused more than a passing concern. They believe that his temperature spiked when he was napping at daycare, and that’s what caused the seizure.
Fortunately, my son is completely fine. The experience was terrifying for all of us, but the only long-term repercussion was increased anxiety on my part. I now know that febrile seizures can occur before you are even aware that your child is sick. This is comforting, because the alternatives are a lot more serious. But it’s also terrifying, because this means they can occur without warning.
This was not our only experience with a febrile seizure. There is a genetic component to febrile seizures, so once a child has one, that child and his or her siblings are at greater risk for a future febrile seizure. I can tell you that knowing what I do now does not make a febrile seizure any less frightening to witness. But instead of worrying that my child is developing epilepsy or even dying, I’m able to recognize that it’s likely a febrile seizure, even if there was previously no indication that the child was ill.
If I can leave you with one takeaway from this article, please remember that febrile seizures are not necessarily caused by an extremely high fever. They can be caused by a rapid change in body temperature, and can occur before you are aware that your child is sick or has a fever. You can read more about febrile seizures here, or speak to your doctor or health care professional.
Finally, I can’t write this article without recognizing the parents who have dealt with much more serious children’s health issues or emergencies. While terrifying, a febrile seizure is relatively benign in the grand scheme of things. Some parents have had to deal with the unimaginable, and some are dealing with it on a regular basis. This experience gave me a very small glimpse into what those parents face, and those parents have my utmost respect and admiration for their strength and courage.