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Eur J Pediatr. 2008 Jan;167(1):17-27. Epub 2007 Sep 2.

Assessment of febrile seizures in children.

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Department of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1130, 0317 Blindern, Oslo, Norway.


Febrile seizures are the most common form of childhood seizures, affecting 2-5% of all children and usually appearing between 3 months and 5 years of age. Despite its predominantly benign nature, a febrile seizure (FS) is a terrifying experience for most parents. The condition is perhaps one of the most prevalent causes of admittance to pediatric emergency wards worldwide. FS, defined as either simple or complex, may be provoked by any febrile bacterial or (more usually) viral illness. No specific level of fever is required to diagnose FS. It is essential to exclude underlying meningitis in all children with FS, either clinically or, if any doubt remains, by lumbar puncture. There is no evidence, however, to support routine lumbar puncture in all children admitted with simple FS, especially when typical clinical signs of meningitis are lacking. The risk of epilepsy following FS is 1-6%. The association, however small, between FS and epilepsy may demonstrate a genetic link between FS and epilepsy rather than a cause and effect relationship. The effectiveness of prophylactic treatment with medication remains controversial. There is no evidence of the effectiveness of antipyretics in preventing future FS. Prophylactic use of paracetamol, ibuprofen or a combination of both in FS, is thus a questionable practice. There is reason to believe that children who have experienced a simple FS are over-investigated and over-treated. This review aims to provide physicians with adequate knowledge to make rational assessments of children with febrile seizures.

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