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Febrile Seizures

Can They Be Prevented?

If a child has a fever, most parents will use fever-lowering drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to make the child more comfortable; however, there are no studies that prove that this will reduce the risk of a seizure. Obviously, reducing the number of febrile illnesses would help with prevention of febrile seizures, although this is often not a practical possibility.
 
Prolonged daily use of oral anticonvulsants, such as phenobarbital or valproate, to prevent febrile seizures is usually not recommended because of their potential for side effects and questionable effectiveness for preventing such seizures.
 
Children especially prone to febrile seizures may be treated with the drug diazepam orally or rectally, whenever they have a fever. The majority of children with febrile seizures do not need to be treated with medication, but in some cases a doctor may decide that medicine given only while the child has a fever may be the best alternative. This medication may lower the risk of having another febrile seizure. It is usually well tolerated, although it occasionally can cause:
 
  • Drowsiness
  • A lack of coordination
  • Hyperactivity.
     
Children vary widely in their susceptibility to such side effects.
 

Research on Febrile Seizures

Scientists are exploring what environmental and genetic risk factors make children susceptible to febrile seizures. Some studies suggest that women who smoke or drink alcohol during their pregnancies are more likely to have children with febrile seizures, but more research needs to be done before this link can be clearly established.
 
Scientists are also working to pinpoint factors that can help predict which children are likely to have recurrent or long-lasting febrile seizures.
 
Investigators continue to monitor the long-term impact that febrile seizures might have on intelligence, behavior, school achievement, and the development of epilepsy. For example, scientists conducting studies in animals are assessing the effects of seizures and anticonvulsant drugs on brain development.
 
Investigators also continue to explore which drugs can effectively treat or prevent febrile seizures and to check for side effects of these medicines.
 
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