Febrile Seizures {One Parent’s Experience}


I had read online before about febrile seizures, assuming that they happened to “other people’s kids,” maybe those with a history of seizures. At the very least, I figured kids had them if the illness was known and they had a fever already. Boy, was I wrong.

Of course, I will absolutely add the important disclaimer that I am not a doctor. If you have a concern about your child, call the pediatrician (not Dr. Google). If you think your child is having an emergency, I suggest calling 911 because the worst-case scenario is nothing was happening and your kid is actually fine but the ER doctor can tell you that. If it’s not an emergency, you can never go wrong with calling the pediatrician or the nurse line because they are the experts and know more about your child, specifically.

One day, my 2-year-old and I were having a regular toddler day out with MeeMaw and his sister. He had recently gotten up from a nap and so seemed a little groggy. I took him out of the car and he asked me to pick him up so I did, per usual. We were going to a little community picnic that had some carnival games and food.

As we were walking in, he seemed extra lethargic all of a sudden. I looked at him and saw his eyes roll to the back of his head and he went limp, then started twitching. I was completely shocked and confused. My mom was trying to get our registration done so we could get a door prize ticket. I called for her and said something was wrong. “Leo is having a seizure!” She asked, “What do I do?” I said, “Have someone call 911!”

I couldn’t believe what was happening.

febrile seizures

I tried to open my purse and my hand-eye coordination totally went out the window. Luckily we have a great community because there was a doctor at the picnic and two nurses. The doctor had already called for an ambulance before I could say, “Call 911,” and the nurses took Leo and put him on his side on a table. His seizure lasted about a minute and a half. He then spit out some mucus and saliva. He drifted in and out of consciousness. The people there helping me asked if he seemed sick earlier or was having a problem today. I said no, that he had been playing and I wouldn’t take him out somewhere if I knew he was sick. I don’t think they were trying to judge me but I felt a bit mom-shamed and wondered what I did to cause this to happen to Leo.

I asked my mom to take my daughter and keep her away from the action. It was great to have family there to help me and good that the carnival activities were around so she was pretty distracted after we left and not too worried. My sister came out as well to support mom and be with her niece while we were at the hospital.

The 911 operator asked me to tell her when he breathed to make sure he was breathing and she counted his breaths for almost a minute. The ambulance came and a paramedic brought him inside. I remembered what I’d read about febrile seizures but I was confused because I didn’t think he had a fever today. The paramedic took his temperature and it was 99 degrees. That didn’t make sense to me.

His vitals weren’t too out of the ordinary and he woke up and started crying when the paramedic tried to put the blood pressure cuff on him. I said usually Leo loved playing doctor and has two separate doctor’s kits at home. We usually call him “Dr. Leo.” It’s not fun though when you actually have to get checked out. Leo has an angry sound to his cry when he gets mad about something, and he was certainly not looking happy to be stuck in an ambulance. I felt like that was probably a good sign though – crying means that the child is feeling something and has an awareness of what’s going on.

We went to Dayton Children’s hospital. I used to volunteer there and I did a work-study there in college, but this was the first time I came back to the main campus as a parent. The ER staff efficiently got Leo hooked up to monitors. He seemed very groggy when we arrived. The doctor came in to explain that febrile seizures can happen when the child has the first fever of an illness before you even know they’re ill. Usually, the child goes from not having a fever and the extremely sudden onset of a high fever causes the seizure. It’s not abnormal for the fever to go down and come back up later. They checked his temperature and it was almost 103 at that time.

He validated me by saying that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the issue and I did the right thing in this situation.

He said Leo would rest for a bit and he would soon come back to his senses and act like nothing ever happened. It’s hard to believe that someone can have a seizure and be totally fine afterward. Some children are more prone to febrile seizures. I think his stage of brain development might have had something to do with it (according to what I read on the internet about febrile seizures and 2-year-olds). The doctor reported that two out of three children who have a febrile seizure never have one again. If it happened again and lasted less than 5 minutes, that would not be concerning, either. Of course, he said I could do whatever I felt was necessary in the moment, and I wouldn’t be wrong to call 911 again if I felt something wasn’t right.

We snuggled for a while and the medical professionals continued to monitor him. My dad came out and sat with us. The doctor checked Leo and found that he had an ear infection in one ear. The general thought was that the ear infection just started and spiked the fever. Before too long, Leo woke up as if from a nice nap and seemed totally normal, trying to take off the monitors (successfully) and he put his shoes on, ready to go. Of course, by that time, he had to have his temperature checked (rectally) and ears checked again, which he hated. Sometimes it’s better not to be totally lucid when you have some of those things checked. Soon after that, we left and ate an early dinner in the hospital cafeteria.

I’m blessed to know that Leo is healthy and fine. Febrile seizures are something that can occur in childhood. They can seemingly happen out of the blue before you know your child has a virus or infection. This turned out to be another adventure in parenting that kept me on my toes. Though it’s never great to call 911 and go to the ER, I’d always prefer things to turn out the way they did that day, with my child being fine and everyone walking out within a couple of hours.