You're likely to start by first seeing your child's family doctor or pediatrician. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your child's doctor.
What you can do
- Write down everything you remember from your child's seizure, including any signs or symptoms that occurred before the seizure, such as a fever.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that your child takes, if any.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of the time with your child's doctor. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For febrile seizures, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my child's seizure?
- What kinds of tests does my child need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Will this happen again?
- Does my child need treatment?
- What do I need to do the next time he or she has a fever?
- What can I do to help my child if he or she has another febrile seizure?
- My child has another health condition. How can we manage them together?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home? What websites do you recommend?
- Will giving my child fever-reducing medications during an illness help prevent febrile seizures?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions about your child's seizure, such as:
- Did your child have a fever or illness before having this seizure?
- Can you describe your child's seizure? What were the signs and symptoms? How long did the seizure last?
- Has this ever happened before?
- Does anyone in your child's family have a history of febrile seizures or seizure disorders?
- Do you know if your child has been exposed to any illnesses?
- Does your child have any history of head trauma or a neurological disease?
What you can do in the meantime
Here's what you can do if your child experiences another febrile seizure:
- Don't restrain your child, but do place him or her on a safe surface, such as the floor.
- Place your child on his or her side, keeping the face to the side and the lower arm extended under the head, to prevent your child from inhaling vomit if vomiting occurs.
- If your child had anything in his or her mouth when the seizure began, remove it. And, don't place anything in your child's mouth during a seizure because doing so can cause choking.
- If a seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes, seek emergency care.
Tests and diagnosis
Identifying the cause of your child's fever is the first step after a febrile seizure. Depending on the type of seizure your child had, your doctor may recommend different tests.
Simple febrile seizures
To determine the cause of infection, your doctor may recommend:
- A blood test
- A urine test
- A spinal tap (lumbar puncture), to find out if your child has a central nervous system infection, such as meningitis
Complex febrile seizures
If your child had a complex febrile seizure, your doctor may also recommend an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures brain activity.
Jan. 24, 2012
- Febrile seizures fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/febrile_seizures/detail_febrile_seizures.htm. Accessed Nov. 14, 2011.
- What do I do if my child has a febrile seizure? American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.aap.org/publiced/BR_FebrileSeizures.htm. Accessed Nov. 14, 2011.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical practice guideline — Febrile seizures: Guideline for the neurodiagnostic evaluation of the child with a simple febrile seizure. Pediatrics. 2011;127:389.
- Febrile seizures. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/neurologic_disorders_in_children/febrile_seizures.html. Accessed Nov. 14, 2011.
- Bernard TJ, et al. Neurologic & muscular disorders. In: Hay WW, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=6585048. Accessed Nov. 13, 2011.
- Cendes F, et al. Vaccinations and febrile seizures. Epilepsia. 2011;52(suppl):23.
- Sullivan JE, et al. Fever and antipyretic use in children. Pediatrics. 2011;127:580.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 10, 2011.
- Nickels KC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 21, 2011.