Newest Review: ... teeth (even toddler sized teeth!) cannot be trusted to be kind to anything that's placed in their mouth mid-fit. Most Febrile Convulsi... more
Terrifying, just terrifying!
Member Name: chrisandmark
Date: 02/01/13, updated on 02/01/13 (71 review reads)
Advantages: It doesn't take very long at all for the baby/toddler/child to snap out of it
Disadvantages: Very frightening to witness, can potentially last a long time, takes years for them to outgrow it
Last night was awful. My two year old son went to bed at 8pm as usual, a little snotty and generally a bit warm due to a cold he came down with on Boxing Day. He's not the best sleeper in the world at the best of times so when he woke every hour I didn't really think much of it, until 11.30pm when he awoke with a squalling/coughing fit and when I went to him he was so hot I couldn't even cuddle him as the heat from his body was making my bare arms uncomfortable. I propped him up in our bed with my arm underneath him and a pillow under his head, gave him a big dose of Ibuprofen and settled myself down with my Kindle for a night of reading after realising sleep was probably out of the question with such a poorly babe next to me.
Then, after a couple of minutes, I caught sight of his eyes in my reading light and immediately knew something was wrong. It was strange, spooky in a way. They say babies and animals can see spirits, and that's exactly what came into my head - he was staring right over my shoulder with his eyes as wide open as they could go, his mouth gradually forming a large 'O' shape which for all the world looked like he was being tormented by something I couldn't see! The thing with Febrile Convulsions is that the child doesn't always shake or go into a true fit-like state so for the first few seconds it's hard to really understand what's happening, David had one last year while suffering from a chest infection so I do know the signs to look out for but last night he displayed such subtle symptoms that I honestly didn't click that he was fitting until I tried to shift his position and realised his legs were locked straight. A couple of very loud 'DAVIDs' and an attempt at distracting him by shining the light into his eyes did absolutely nothing, so I gathered him up and raced down the stairs yelling for Mark to come and help.
Calmness, you see, is key if your child has a Febrile Convulsion. You are absolutely no use to anyone if you're racing around like the proverbial headless chicken, and I'm the first to admit that I'm a total panic-merchant when anything like this happens. Mark took charge then, the action of me bringing him downstairs seemed to make David's symptoms more pronounced so by the time we'd got into the living room he was visibly trembling with huge massive pupils and absolutely no response to any of us. Remembering the advice we were given last time I soaked a tea-towel in cool water in an attempt to cool him down and Mark decided to call an ambulance rather than battle through New Years Day traffic to get to the Children's Hospital which is (not very) helpfully located in the middle of Birmingham city centre with roughly five car parking spaces. Having grown up with a disabled mum and cancer sufferer dad I'm very aware of how stretched the ambulance service is, but both the dispatcher and paramedic said we'd done the right thing as who knows what could happen during a forty minute car drive to the hospital - and I'd reiterate that to anyone who may be reading, don't worry in this instance that you're wasting the time of the ambulance as they are fully equipped to deal with any complications that may arise while you're on route to the hospital.
We were advised on the phone to put David into the recovery position as he'd begun to drool as the convulsion took hold and was making noises which indicated he was about to choke. I wasn't confident that he'd tolerate being in the recovery position as he loathes being 'held down', but it was testament to how poorly he was that he lay on his side like a good little boy without struggling whatsoever. I lay down on the floor next to him while Mark took various instructions from the lady on the phone, all tailored to the information we'd given about his condition - mainly regarding checking his breathing and ensuring the drool was sliding out of his mouth rather than him swallowing it. It's important to remember not to put your fingers in a fitters mouth even though that's the natural instinct when it appears your child is about to choke - providing they are in the recovery position the likelihood of a choking incident is minimal, there's much more chance of the afflicted little one deciding to chomp down on your fingers with enough force to cause damage! Sounds silly when you're dealing with such a little person, but the jaw is very strong so you do need to bear in mind that anyone with teeth (even toddler sized teeth!) cannot be trusted to be kind to anything that's placed in their mouth mid-fit.
Most Febrile Convulsions last for a few short minutes, although it seems longer due to the fact that it takes a while for them to come out of it. In the words of last nights paramedic, small kiddies will appear 'spaced out' for up to an hour after the convulsion itself has ended - and this was certainly true for David, who lay there for a good thirty minutes without moving a muscle and only swivelling his eyes to check where me and his dad were! There was a brief moment of panic when he didn't respond to the pain of a heel prick blood test, but this turned out to be a delayed reaction as a minute or two later he burst into tears and reached down (albeit half heartedly) to touch his injured foot. Once the initial observations had been made it was decided that David needed to go to the hospital, the paramedics reassured me that this was a precaution only and common practice for babies or toddlers who throw any sort of fit - if he'd been completely 'back to normal' by the time they'd arrived they may have decided to leave him at home, but to be honest I was glad to get him checked over in a hospital environment where anything untoward could be picked up and dealt with.
Luckily, within a few minutes of arriving at the hospital David was back to his usual self and spent our three hour wait entertaining the other parents with his cheekiness and general 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' attitude to life, bearing in mind it was now 3am and while I was flagging David had a burst of energy (typical after a convulsion of this nature apparently) which had him running around the corridors and attempting to kiss every nurse in the building! It was so good to see him like this after the pale and poorly sight of him during and after his convulsion.
Of course, I want to prevent this from happening again and the doctor assures me I must handle his various toddler illnesses well as the fact he has had a convulsion previously makes him susceptible to having more - that there was a thirteen month gap between convulsions is good news, as is the fact that the ones David has suffered have been relatively short (although this doesn't seem to be the case at the time). The main, and only, prevention is to bring their temperature down by stripping them off and giving doses of Ibuprofen and Calpol at regular intervals - but there really is only so much you can do. I learned last night that a cool bath isn't the best idea for a young child if they have a very high temperature as such a rapid cooling of the body can bring the convulsion on quicker and with more severe symptoms, if you feel they need extra help in cooling themselves down then a cool wet cloth is the best way forward - a good friend (fellow Dooyoo-er Gary, who is a long-term nurse) told me this morning that ice cubes on the wrist pulse is highly effective at bringing down a temperature, something I've actually scribbled down on the front of David's red book to remember for next time he starts overheating. Don't use blankets when children have a temperature, it's the body's way of telling you it's too hot so don't heat it up even more - I know the temptation to wrap them up warm is great, I'm a wrapper-upper myself, but seriously don't do it as you'll just end up making things worse. Strip baby off to nappy or knickers, sit them in front of a fan, try to keep them off your lap as your body heat won't be doing them any good or even go and stand outside with them - anything, just get that temperature down. The point to watch for, in little ones anyway, is that you don't cool them so quickly and thoroughly that they start shivering as that shows their body is becoming too cold, with that opening up a whole new set of potential problems. David's a wuss, he shivers if I pass him a bottle which is too cold, so it's hard really to work out sometimes if he's really cold or whether he's just being a bit of a girl - last night there was zero chance of bringing him to shivering stage as he was simply so boiling hot!
I actually do believe that they're not all preventable, they are in fact a 'good' reaction as going through a temperature induced convulsion can bring the body temperature down. It's still a fit though and it's bloody terrifying to witness but in the grand scheme of it, if the convulsion is managed properly while it's happening then it's unlikely to cause any other issues. It doesn't suddenly turn your precious babe into an epileptic, I'm absolutely not medically trained but suspect the main thing you need to be aware of is the possibility of choking as (with David at least) he loses his ability to swallow while his body is rigid through the convulsion - of course, if the convulsion lasts for a long time this opens up the worry of them getting enough oxygen but by this point the likelihood is that a paramedic will have arrived with the equipment and experience to keep your baby/child safe and well. When David had his 2011 convulsion it was because he'd been suffering with a largely symptomless chest infection which suddenly crept up on him with a ridiculously high temperature developing within less than an hour - I simply didn't have time that day to do anything to stop the convulsion occurring; luckily we were on the way to an appointment with our GP when the convulsion started in the car, so a brief 80mph spurt along the dual carriageway got us there in time for our wonderful GP to take charge and nurse David (then not even a year old) back to some semblance of health. I say luckily as his previous convulsion was much more serious due to the fact that it lasted for almost ten minutes with visible jerking of his limbs and he also lost controls of his bowels, I don't know how well I could have managed a fit (convulsion) of that severity by myself and the only advice I can give really is that the recovery position is a potential life saver so learn how to do it properly and quickly - it was the first thing my GP did when I rushed David into the building, even lying him in this position in his arms as he carried him through to the nurses room. While I suspect last nights convulsion could have been prevented if I'd noticed he was becoming more poorly during the night, the previous one would probably have happened whatever I'd done and was actually the thing which led to his chest infection being diagnosed and treated.
I'm gutted that I've got to give Febrile Convulsion a star, as a condition it deserves a minus number of stars as it's such a horrible thing for little people to go through and is horrendous to witness for mum and dad. I desperately want it never to happen again, but am aware of the fact that children can suffer these 'harmless' convulsions up to the age of five so am pretty confident that David will have another one at some point - none of my other children have ever had anything like this although mum tells me I was a Febrile Convulser myself up to the age of six, so maybe there is some hereditary factor in the mix somewhere.
All I can say really is don't panic, and if you think you are going to panic then entrust your child to someone who is less likely to inadvertently do the wrong thing through sheer worry. Call an ambulance, reassure the patient with soft words (as little physical contact as possible) and try to remember that it won't be very long at all until your baby is back to normal - in most cases Febrile Convulsions are seriously not as bad as they look, although that's very easy for me to say as I sit watching David (looking an absolute picture of health today) play as though nothing happened last night.
Summary: A frightening experience, but usually not as serious as it looks