It started with a fever. Our three year old woke up from his nap, cranky and hot. He had been unusually tired that day, but our thermometer readings of his temperature varied from normal to low-grade fever. We let him rest on the couch, thinking that some extra sleep might help.
My husband and I ate dinner nearby while Grandma sat on the couch with our son. Shortly after we started our meal, he began to gasp. As we both looked over, we saw that our little boy was convulsing. His arms and head shook, his eyes rolled back, and rasping gasps escaped his mouth. We sprang to our feet and rushed to the couch.
My mom supported his head while my husband made sure he wouldn’t roll off the couch. They turned him on his side in case he vomited. My husband and I were on the verge of panic, and I was ready to call 9-1-1. My mom advised that we wait for a bit to see if the seizure would stop, and then we could head straight to the doctor. It seemed like an eternity, but a minute later the convulsions stopped and our son’s body relaxed.
We decided it would be best for my mom and husband to take our son to urgent care while I stayed home with our newborn baby. Both during the seizure and while they were gone, I worried that my son would never be the same again. How many brain cells had died during the seizure? Would he remember how to talk? Would his personality stay the same?
While they were gone, I read numerous articles about seizures and found out that our son had what was called a “febrile seizure” which is literally a seizure caused by a fever. Most febrile seizures occur in children between six months and five years of age. Despite my worries, I learned that these seizures “produce no lasting effects. Simple febrile seizures don’t cause brain damage, intellectual disability or learning disabilities, and they don’t mean your child has a more serious underlying disorder.”
My research was confirmed by our doctor, who found that the underlying cause of the fever, in this case, was the flu and an ear infection. There was nothing further the doctor could do to treat the seizure, although she did prescribe medicine to treat our son’s other illnesses.
When our son came home, I worried he might have another seizure. I was comforted to learn that febrile seizures “rarely happen more than once within a 24-hour period.” However, our son was more likely to have a febrile seizure again in the future. With that in mind, I made sure I knew what to do if it happened again. We had actually done many things on this list:
- Stay calm.
- Protect the child from injury.
- Do not attempt to restrain or hold the child down during the seizure.
- Turn the child onto his or her side if vomiting occurs.
- Do not put anything in your child’s mouth.
- Loosen clothing.
- Support your child’s head with a pillow or soft object.
- Try to note how long the seizure lasts, what types of movements are occurring, and which parts of the body it is affecting.
My hope in writing this article is to raise awareness on how to respond when someone has a seizure. It can be a very traumatic experience, especially when it is your own child. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.