The other day my son had a febrile seizure. I had no idea what that was or what it meant for my sweet 3-year-old boy. All I knew was that a seizure was something I never wanted or expected my child to experience.
It started on an ordinary, chaotic Monday morning. My son goes to a family daycare two days a week, and Monday is one of them. I was doing my best to wrangle the toddler and puppy and get out the door. The morning seemed much like any other Monday, nothing notable.
A few hours after drop off, I received a phone call at work saying that he felt very warm and he had a temp of 103. I was shocked, as he had no symptoms of being sick that morning or days before. He was complaining of being tired and wanting to lay down and I left work immediately to go get him.
About 15-20 minutes into my drive I received another call. A call that absolutely rocked my world. My daycare provider asked me if I was close, and proceeded to tell me that my son was having a febrile seizure.
As you can imagine, my reaction was pure panic, shock, and confusion. I had no idea what a febrile seizure was, but I did know what a seizure was. The fear set in instantly. I told her to call the rescue and through the flood of tears made my way there.
The ambulance had already arrived, with my son inside; non-responsive, connected to wires and being given an IV. He was still noticeably trembling and his temperature was rising. The EMTs administered medication to stop the seizure as well as Tylenol to help bring down his fever.
I was in a full-blown panic, pale and shaking, trying my best to keep my composure as my 3-year-old lay there lifelessly. The ride to the ER was a blur of questions, and the EMTs attempts at answers.
My mind was racing: When was he going to wake up? Was he going to wake up? Was he in a coma? Was he in pain? Was there going to be lasting side effects? Would there be more seizures? I watched his heart rate rise to 200 on the monitor. I watched the EMT take his temperature again, it had gone up. I was becoming physically sick with worry.
When we arrived at the hospital the nurses were able to wake him. His eyes opened, but he wasn’t fully there. He wasn’t speaking, he was able to look in my direction when I spoke, but couldn’t make eye contact. Luckily my husband had shown up this point to physically and emotionally hold me up.
My son was moved into the trauma section of the ER and his temperature had yet again risen, this time over 104 degrees. He was given more IV medication to bring the fever down, as I did my best to answer the doctor’s questions.
This is what I knew: His seizure started shortly after the fever spiked. He had full-body convulsions. There was some foaming at the mouth. His seizure lasted 6 minutes. There was nothing out of the ordinary leading up to the seizure, besides the sudden fever.
All of this information seemed to be “good news” as far as the doctors were concerned. I was informed that a febrile seizure is caused by a sudden and significant change in body temperature. His body was unable to handle the rapid increase and as a result went into shock, which presented itself physically as convulsions.
Finally, his temperature began to drop and he was stabilized. We moved to another room where we could monitor him and he could finally rest. At this point, he was still unable to speak much, and when he did he sounded very weak and could barely move his mouth to form the words.
The doctors informed us that they wanted him to be at “baseline” or his normal self before we could discharge. I looked at my husband with doubt. It seemed impossible that our stubborn, energetic sweet boy would be coming back any time soon.
But after a 2-hour nap and a popsicle: he was back. He was more alert, able to speak clearly and was making perfect sense. He was so brave. When I asked him if he remembered what happened, he gave me a brief recap of being at daycare, then laying down because he was tired, and then a bunch of people coming in. He even went on to say “then I went to my doctor’s appointment.” I was surprised and completely relieved. He had no real memory of this traumatic event and was less than phased that we were sitting in the emergency room.
We were able to go home that night. He was back to himself, and I was (am) a complete mess. I can’t un-see my baby laying in that ambulance. I can’t un-feel that fear and panic.
We were lucky our daycare provider had some knowledge of these types of seizures, and that the ambulance came so quickly. The hospital staff was amazing. The one thing that is hard to swallow is that there is no “cause” other than the rapid rise in temperature. All we were able to get out of this was that it was caused by some type of virus.
My hope in writing this is that someone will read it and gain some knowledge of what this experience is like. That if this happens to someone else’s child, which it could, that they will have some information to help get them through.
In the following days, I read everything I could on febrile seizures. My most important takeaways are:
- Febrile seizures can happen to any child, and are most common from the ages of 6 months through 5 years.
- After age 5 children have basically “outgrown” febrile seizures.
- Febrile seizures lasting less than 15 minutes are not linked with any neurological disorder or issue, and most leave no lasting effects.
- If you think your child or a child in your care is having a febrile seizure: Place the child in a safe space, like the floor, and don’t try to restrain or hold the child. Lay the child on their side or stomach to prevent choking. Never put anything inside the mouth. Note the start time of the seizure. Stay with the child and call an ambulance.