Almost five percent of children three months to five years old have at least one febrile seizure. Even though febrile seizures are not serious from a medical perspective, any seizure can be very frightening for a parent. Most parents have little knowledge about febrile seizures until their child has one. Those with an understanding of these seizures are more likely to treat the seizure appropriately. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict which children will have a febrile seizure.
Although there is no way to accurately predict which children will have a first febrile seizure, there may be factors that increase the risk of a child having a febrile seizure. A retrospective study of 150 children, half experiencing a febrile seizure and half as controls, found four factors that seem to indicate an increased risk of having a febrile seizure. The four factors found to increase the risk area family history of febrile seizures in a first- or second-degree relative, day care attendance of more than 20 hours per week, discharge from the hospital at 28 days of age or later, and parental impression of slow development. Over three percent of children have two or more of these factors, but their risk of having a febrile seizure is about 28%.
Most children who have a first febrile seizure have none of these risk factors. Since parental education about febrile seizures before the seizure occurs leads to less fear and more appropriate treatment, ideally all parents should be taught about them. More realistically, parents with children at risk for febrile seizures should receive extra counseling about this very scary problem.
American Journal of Diseases of Children, 1/93, pp. 35-9.
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