A febrile seizure in a one year old

Last night Clara experienced a febrile sizure for the first, and hopefully last, time.

A febrile seizure is a period of full body convulsions caused by a high temperature, and it’s not as rare as you might think.

Clara hadn’t been right for the last 48 hours. She was teething, badly, her cheeks flushed red, inconsolable except with a frozen teething toy and The Happy Song, she’d been off solids completely and was very tired. All the signs of a classic difficult period of teething.

We went out for the day yesterday and whilst Clara was calmer than the day before, she was still out of sorts. She would eat pureed food but wasn’t interested in milk. She would sit and play, but slowly and silently, not her usual high excitement self.

When Clara’s unwell she’s a real Mummy’s girl. Only I could console her, hold her, feed her. So it didn’t seem too odd that she kicked up a fuss when I tried to pass her over to Dean for bath time. Usually Clara LOVES bathtime, always soaking her Daddy who was supervising from next to the bath. But this time she got incredibly upset, she did not want to go in that bath. Once she’d seen me splash the bubbles she got excited and was happy to be put in. So the night continued as normal.

After her bath, Dean lay Clara down in her bed to dry her off and start her pampering routine (powder, lotion, hair brushing, PJs).

And that’s when the convulsions happened.

I wasn’t in the room but Dean called for me to come in quickly. Clara was shaking, a lot. She felt really hot to touch, so why did it look like she was shivering? Her temperature was 37.7 – she was definitely hot. After a minute or two (I had no real no concept of time) she stopped and gagged, throwing up a little. What just happened?

We picked Clara up and took her into our room so we could both see her more easily. She sat up, looking back and forward between Dean and I, glazed for another minute or so.

I picked her up again, and rocked her in my arms, and she fell asleep. So I placed her back in her bed, my brain racking ideas for what just happened.

Dean tried to tell me not to worry, she was likely just cold having got out of the bath and she’d beeen throwing up the day before anyway. Probably just bad timing, and she hadn’t really napped that day.

But it didn’t sit right with me. I sat there, googling frantically.

I’d heard of a febrile seizure but wanted to compare what I’d see with Clara. YouTube confirmed it. A video of a toddler shaking exactly like Clara had been. All the Google articles recommended phoning a doctor immediately if it was the first time your child had experienced it, so I phoned 111 for advice.

The first lady I spoke to said she’d need Clara awake so she could check a few symptoms. So I went upstairs to wake her up and she woke quickly, bright as a button. Strange. I explained what had happened to Clara and said her temperature was high before the fit but it wasn’t feverous. I checked Clara’s temperature again whilst on the phone and it had raised from 37.7 to 38.7. Fever. The advisor said she’d get a clinician to call me back, but I should ring if anything changed. I stripped Clara down to her nappy.

20 minutes passed and we had no call back. I checked Clara’s temperature again – 39.8. Time to call for help.

Another call to 111 put me through to another contact centre, who also advised a clinician would call me back. Time to quickly pack bags for a hospital trip – I wasn’t prepared to stay at home much longer with her temperature rising that high after what we’d witnessed.

A few minutes after we hung up, the original call centre rang me back.

They were sending a paramedic.

Quickly, a paramedic car arrived. The team were lovely – one was a neighbour of my parents who we had no idea was a paramedic. They did a set of observations on Clara and made the decision to call an ambulance to take Clara to hospital.

The ambulance arrived and the team were fantastic. In good spirits, we turned the motion activated animated reindeer on in the hall (don’t ask!) so the team would be greeted with a festive song on arrival.

Shortly after, we were on our way to hospital. Clara strapped into the seat in front of me, absolutely furious at travelling pretty much naked when all she wanted to do was sleep. Dean followed in my car behind. Meanwhile, our friendly paramedic Oliver travelled in the back with Clara and I, fascinated by Clara’s story. I’ve taken it as a compliment that he asked if I was a Nurse! I was proud to say nope, just a mum heavily invested in her child.

On arrival at A&E we were greeted with a familiar friendly face, the nurse who we’d seen a couple times before Clara was admitted with rotavirus. She settled us in, distracting Clara with bubbles and bells whilst she did another set of observations. Clara’s temperature was still 38.7 and her heart rate was high so she was given some Calpol (stronger strength than you can get over the counter). Normally, you’d consider giving a baby child friendly Nurofen but Clara can’t have it becuase of her bowel issues.

A doctor soon came to see Clara and did another set of observations. He checked her ears and found both ear drums were angrily red and her throat looked sore.

It’s likely an ear infection in both ears and a related fever was the trigger for the seizure. Dramatic change in body temperature can trigger the convulsions. So thankfully, nothing serious. And completely unrelated to her other conditions.

A few hours later, her temperature had dropped to a healthy but warm 36.7 and her heart rate was normal. She had visibly perked up too, clearly posing for the camera when I went to take a photo of her. That’s my Clara! We left the hospital at 2am, equipped with antibiotics to get Clara back to feeling her best.

Thankfully febrile seizures are usually harmless, but if you witness one for the first time it’s worth getting your child checked out quickly. 97% of children between six months and five years will likely never experience it, but if you do experience it, it’s important you know what to do.

You can find out more about Febrile Seizures on the NHS website here.

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