Signs and Symptoms of Febrile Seizure

Febrile seizures usually last fewer than 5 minutes; however, they may last from a few seconds to 15 minutes or longer. Febrile seizure symptoms vary. In mild cases, the child's eyes may roll or his or her limbs may become rigid (stiff). During a febrile seizure, children are unable to respond (i.e., unresponsive) and may lose consciousness. If the child is standing, he or she will fall.

Other symptoms of febrile seizures include the following:

  • Breathing difficulty (e.g., apnea; the child may turn bluish in color)
  • Contraction of the muscles of the face, limbs, and trunk
  • Fever (usually higher than 102°F)
  • Illness (e.g., upper respiratory infection)
  • Involuntary moaning, crying, and/or passing of urine
  • Shaking
  • Twitching
  • Vomiting

After a period of time (usually a few seconds to a few minutes), the muscles relax, causing rhythmic jerking. Once the seizure is over, the child may be sleepy or confused.

Febrile Seizure Complications

In most cases, febrile seizures resolve without complications. If the child is standing, eating, or drinking when the seizure occurs, he or she may be injured by the fall, may choke, or may inhale fluid into the lungs. The child also may bite his or her tongue, lips, or inside of the cheek during a febrile seizure.

Febrile seizures increase the risk for epilepsy slightly. However, more than 95% of children who have febrile seizures do not develop a seizure disorder. Febrile seizures do not increase the risk for brain damage or mental retardation.

In rare cases, a condition called status epilepticus can occur during a febrile seizure. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency in which a seizure lasts longer than 30 minutes or seizures recur without recovery for 30 minutes or longer. This condition is more common in children under the age of 1 year. Status epilepticus can cause brain damage and may be fatal.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014