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Febrile convulsions

What are they? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What are Febrile convulsions?

Febrile convulsions or seizures are quite common in young children, affecting about 1 in 20, and usually occur as a result of a high temperature of 38 degrees centigrade or above which can be caused by an infection. Most convulsions occur between the ages of six months and three years.

They can be quite alarming or even frightening to witness, but are a sort of reflex action by the body and usually quite harmless. Febrile convulsions may be either simple or complex, with simple convulsions accounting for about 90% of all cases. These don't last longer than a few minutes and don't recur within 24 hours. The complex type is longer lasting, can recur within 24 hours, and it takes longer than an hour for your child to recover fully.

Some parents worry that their child is having an epileptic fit when they witness a febrile convulsion, but although there is a very small increased risk of developing epilepsy, it's only 1 in 50 for those who suffer simple seizures and 1 in 20 for those who have complex seizures.

What are the symptoms of Febrile convulsion?

Most children have what is known as a tonic clonic seizure – the simple type - where the whole body stiffens, they lose consciousness and their limbs twitch. Some children wet themselves during a convulsion. During a complex seizure, the stiffness is concentrated on only one part of the body.

If your child has no previous history of convulsions, or has a convulsion lasting longer than 5 minutes and shows no signs of stopping, or if he has breathing difficulties, call your GP straight away or dial 999 if you're worried.

What are the treatments and remedies of Febrile convulsion?

Usually no treatment is required after a convulsion, apart from bringing the temperature under control. You can do this by removing your child's outer clothing and cooling him with a fan. If the fever persists, give him the appropriate dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some children feel tired after a convulsion and may go to sleep afterwards.

Always speak to your doctor if your little one has a seizure as it may be the sign of another illness such as Epilepsy. 

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Febrile convulsions