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Can High Fever Cause Brain Damage

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Causes Of Febrile Convulsions

Do high fevers cause brain damage?

Febrile convulsions only happen when there is a rise in body temperature. The fever is usually due to a viral illness or, sometimes, a bacterial infection.

The growing brain of a child is more sensitive to fever than an adult brain. Febrile convulsions tend to run in families, although the reason for this is unknown.

Radiological And Pathological Findings

Various radiological findings have been described on magnetic resonance imaging after heatstroke, including haemorrhage, oedematous changes, ischaemia, encephalitis, and atrophic changes , suggesting a number of pathological processes. Lesions have been observed throughout the central nervous system , including the brain stem, cerebellum, hippocampus, external capsule, and cerebrum . Haemorrhage on MRI may represent a poorer prognosisof eight patients in one follow-up study, three patients had evidence of haemorrhage on MRI imaging, and all three died. The remaining five showed no haemorrhage, and all survived .

Radiological lesions are often bilateral , in keeping with the clinical findings. However, clinical features and radiological signs may correlate poorly. Clinical signs may improve and resolve, despite progressive or non-resolving radiological signs . Radiological signs may improve despite little clinical improvement , or signs may deteriorate with minimal clinical change and progression to atrophy may occur . Imaging may show defects in areas of the brain without clinical deficits or may be normal, despite profound clinical deficits . Deficits on imaging may develop late; imaging may be normal on presentation, and abnormalities only evident on repeat imaging. MRI is probably more sensitive than computed tomography.

What Do I Do If My Child Has A Febrile Seizure

If youre child has a febrile seizure there are several things you should do. During a febrile seizure, try to:

  • Stay calm.
  • Protect your child from injury.
  • Do not attempt to restrain or hold the child down during the seizure.
  • Turn your child onto his or her side if vomiting occurs.
  • Do not put anything in your childs mouth.
  • Loosen clothing.
  • Support your childs head with a pillow or soft object.
  • Try to note how long the seizure lasts, what types of movements are happening and which parts of the childs body its affecting.
  • If the seizure continues for greater than two minutes, call 911.

After the seizure ends, your child will be disoriented for a few minutes while the brain rests and recharges. This is normal.

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Top 5 Fever Myths And Facts

For many parents, fever is one of the most concerning and alarming symptoms a child can have. There are many scary fever myths out there and its time to set the record straight! To many pediatricians, fever is considered a good sign that the body is mounting a response to an infection. Here are my top five fever myths and facts:

Myth #1: Temperatures between 98.7°F and 100°F are low-grade fevers.

Fact: These temperatures are actually normal variations and are not fevers. The bodys temperature changes throughout the day and is naturally higher in the afternoon and evening. An actual fever is any temperature of 100.4°F or higher.

Myth #2: Fevers are bad, can cause brain damage or seizures and are dangerous to my child.

Fact: Fevers are a protective mechanism and a sign that the body’s immune system is turned on. Most fevers are good for sick children and help the body fight infection. Fevers do not cause brain damage. As for seizures, the vast majority of children do not have seizures with a fever. About 4 percent of children can have a seizure with a fever this is called a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures are scary to watch, but they usually stop within five minutes. They do not cause brain damage or have long-term side effects. Children who have had febrile seizures are not at greater risk for developmental delays or learning disabilities.

Myth #3: All fevers need to be treated with fever medicine . After treatment, the fever should go away completely.

Most Fevers Not Harmful

Is it true that a high fever can cause brain damage ...

“When you sweat you lose water, but a good judge of how much fluid you need is whether you feel thirsty. Most of the time if you feel thirsty, you should drink; if you don’t , you probably don’t need to.”

High fevers from infections can also trigger fits or seizures in about one in 30 children.

These fevers can be terrifying to watch but “are not harmful and do not cause brain damage” or epilepsy, the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne says.

So forget about your child’s brain being “fried”. And remember the degree of the fever and its rapidity of onset are “not good predictors of serious illness”, the hospital’s clinical practice guidelines for fever in a child say.

Its advice to parents says “there is no advantage to lowering your child’s fever, except for comfort”.

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What Is Jacksonian Seizure

A Jacksonian seizure is a type of focal partial seizure, also known as a simple partial seizure. This means the seizure is caused by unusual electrical activity that affects only a small area of the brain. The person maintains awareness during the seizure. Jacksonian seizures are also known as a Jacksonian march.

When Should I Call For Help If My Child Has A Febrile Seizure

There are several things to watch for during a febrile seizure that would mean calling for emergency help. Call 911 if your child:

  • Is having a seizure for the first time or experiencing a new type of seizure.
  • Is experiencing a seizure that lasts longer than 2-3 minutes.
  • Is having repeated seizures.
  • Has a blue skin color.

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Treatment For A Fever

Fever is a normal response to infection and is usually harmless. If your child has a fever, suggestions include:

  • Keep them cool by not overdressing them or having their room too hot.
  • Give them plenty to drink. It is best to give small, frequent drinks of water.
  • Give liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen if your child has pain or is miserable. Check the label for how much to give and how often. Paracetamol does not protect against febrile convulsions.

Can Meningitis And Encephalitis Be Prevented

High Fever, Seizures and Brain Damage

People should avoid sharing food, utensils, glasses, and other objects with someone who may be exposed to or have the infection. ;People should wash their hands often with soap and rinse under running water.

Effective vaccines are available to prevent Haemophilus influenza, pneumococcal and meningococcal meningitis.

People who live, work, or go to school with someone who has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis may be asked to take antibiotics for a few days as a preventive measure.

To lessen the risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito or other arthropod, people should limit outdoor activities at night, wear long-sleeved clothing when outdoors, use insect repellents that are most effective for that particular region of the country, and rid lawn and outdoor areas of free-standing pools of water, in which mosquitoes breed. Repellants should not be over-applied, particularly on young children and especially infants, as chemicals such as DEET may be absorbed through the skin.

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What Parts Of The Body Are Impacted By Febrile Seizures

A febrile seizure might involve only one arm or one side of the childs body. You might hear this called focal febrile seizure because its located on one side of the body usually face, arm, leg or all of them on one side of the body. The seizure can progress to whole body convulsions called a generalized seizure. For some people, a febrile seizure can affect both sides of the body right from the start.

What Is A Fever

A fever is normally a short-term rise in temperature that helps your body get rid of illness. A fever begins when your immune system makes more white blood cells to fight an infection. The increase in white blood cells triggers your brain to heat your body up.

This causes a fever. In response, your body tries to cool itself off by tightening up on blood flow to your skin and contracting muscles. This makes you shiver and may cause muscle aches.

Your normal body temperature ranges from 97°F to 99°F . You may have a fever if your temperature rises above this.

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Historical Note And Terminology

Conditions other than fever may also cause rise of body temperature. For example, hyperthermia is due to excessive internal heat production or impairment of heat dissipation, such as in heat stroke, which results in a body temperature rise to above that set by the central regulatory processes. Although 2 different terms are used to describe rise of body temperature, the single term “hypothermia” is used for drop in body temperature, whether due to disturbance of central regulation, exposure to cold environment, or both acting simultaneously.

Along with pain, fever is 1 of the earliest symptoms recorded in medical antiquity. Historical aspects of fever are reviewed elsewhere . Fever as a manifestation of infectious diseases was recognized before the discovery of microorganisms as causes of infections. Ancient physicians assessed fever merely by touch of the hand; measurement of the degree of fever was not possible until the discovery of the thermometer in the early 1800s. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, high fever due to severe infections was associated with high mortality. Sir William Osler called it the most terrible enemy of mankind. Fever is now recognized to be a symptom of noninfectious inflammatory conditions as well. Several substances were recognized as exogenous pyrogens or fever producing. Immune challenges result in the production of endogenous pyrogens that act at the hypothalamic level.

How Is Status Epilepticus Diagnosed


Your healthcare provider will do a thorough physical exam and ask about your health history, any medicines you are taking, and if youve been using alcohol or other recreational drugs.

Your;healthcare provider may also order an electroencephalogram. This involves placing painless electrodes onto your scalp to measure the brain’s electrical activity.

You may need other tests to search for possible causes. These include a lumbar puncture to look for signs of infection. A CT scan or MRI may be needed to see problems in the brain.

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Common Complications Associated With Fever

Those with intermediate and high-grade fevers are at risk of developing health complications if not properly treated. A high fever that occurs suddenly or for an extended period of time can be dangerous or life-threatening. In extreme circumstances a severe fever can result in brain damage, coma or death.When body temperature increases too high, for a long period of time, the hypothalamus effectively works harder to rid the body of the cause. This overheats the body. For an infant, this is especially dangerous as little ones do not yet have a hypothalamus which adequately regulates their body temperature . A high fever for infants can become uncontrollable very quickly and cause serious complications, such as brain damage.If the fever is as a result of a medical condition, fever can also be life-threatening in severe circumstances. A person with a weakened immune system due to illness such as pneumonia, is at risk for complications if fever isnt adequately controlled.Severe fever can cause serious damage to the bodys tissues and organs if not diagnosed and treated timeously.

What Should Be Done For A Child Having A Febrile Seizure

Parents and caretakers should remain calm, take first aid measures, and carefully observe the child.; If a child is having a febrile seizure, parents and caregivers should do the following:

  • Note the start time of the seizure. ;If the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, call an ambulance. ;The child should be taken immediately to the nearest medical facility for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Gradually place the child on a protected surface such as the floor or ground to prevent accidental injury. ;Do not restrain or hold a child during a convulsion.
  • Position the child on his or her side or stomach to prevent choking. ;When possible, gently remove any objects from the childs mouth. Nothing should ever be placed in the child’s mouth during a seizure. ;These objects can obstruct the child’s airway and make breathing difficult.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if this is the childs first febrile seizure and take the child to the doctor once the seizure has ended to check for the cause of the fever. ;This is especially urgent if the child shows symptoms of stiff neck, extreme lethargy, or abundant vomiting, which may be signs of meningitis, an infection over the brain surface.

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Where Can I Get More Information

For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:

Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

How Are These Disorders Transmitted

Fact or Fiction: High Fever Causes Seizures Brain Damage

Some forms of bacterial meningitis and encephalitis are contagious and can be spread through contact with saliva, nasal discharge, feces, or respiratory and throat secretions . ;For example, people sharing a household, at a day care center, or in a classroom with an infected person can become infected. ;College students living in dormitoriesin particular, college freshmenhave a higher risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis than college students overall. ;Children who have not been given routine vaccines are at increased risk of developing certain types of bacterial meningitis.

Because these diseases can occur suddenly and progress rapidly, anyone who is suspected of having either meningitis or encephalitis should immediately contact a doctor or go to the hospital.

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Can Status Epilepticus Be Prevented

If you have epilepsy, taking your medicines as directed may help you avoid status epilepticus. If youve had status epilepticus, you may need to begin taking seizure medicines or change medicines youre already taking. Avoiding other causes of this condition, such as alcohol abuse or low blood sugar, may also help prevent it.

Can Subsequent Febrile Seizures Be Prevented

The majority of children with febrile seizures to not need medication.; Experts recommend that children who have experienced a febrile seizure not take any antiseizure medication to prevent future seizures, as the side effects of these daily medications outweigh any benefits. ;This is especially true since most febrile seizures are brief and harmless.

Children especially prone to febrile seizures may be treated with medication, such as diazepam, when they have a fever. ;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, or hyperactivity. ;Children vary widely in their susceptibility to such side effects.

A child whose first febrile seizure is a prolonged one does not necessarily have a higher risk of having reoccurring prolonged seizures. ;But if they do have another seizure, it is likely to be prolonged.; Because very long febrile seizures are associated with the potential for injury and an increased risk of developing epilepsy, some doctors may prescribe medication to these children to prevent prolonged seizures. ;The parents of children who have experienced a long febrile may wish to talk to their doctor about this treatment option.

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How Are Febrile Seizures Evaluated

Before diagnosing febrile seizures in infants and children, a doctor will review a childs medical history and perform a physical exam.; Doctors often perform other tests such as examining the blood and urine to pinpoint the cause of the child’s fever.; Dehydration from severe diarrhea or vomiting could be responsible for seizures.;

Meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain, can cause both fever and seizures that can look like febrile seizures but are much more serious. ;If a doctor suspects a child has meningitis, removing and evaluating a small of the cerebrospinal fluid may be needed. ;

If the seizure is either very prolonged or is accompanied by a serious infection, or if the child is younger than 6 months of age, the clinician may recommend hospitalization.; In most cases, however, a child who has a febrile seizure usually will not need to be hospitalized.

Are Febrile Seizures Related To Epilepsy

Fever Help

Epilepsy is a medical condition where one can experience repeated seizures without any triggers . These seizures happen without fever. This is the big difference between epilepsy and febrile seizures when a child has febrile seizures, theres a fever. Even if your child had recurrent febrile seizures, this doesnt mean that the child has epilepsy.

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms

The hallmark signs of meningitis include some or all of the following: sudden fever, severe headache, nausea or vomiting, double vision, drowsiness, sensitivity to bright light, and a stiff neck.; Encephalitis can be characterized by fever, seizures, change in behavior, and confusion and disorientation.; Related neurological signs depend on which part of the brain is affected by the encephalitic process as some of these are quite localized while others are more widespread.

Meningitis often appears with flu-like symptoms that develop over 1-2 days. ;Distinctive rashes are typically seen in some forms of the disease. ;Meningococcal meningitis may be associated with kidney and adrenal gland failure and shock.

Individuals with encephalitis often show mild flu-like symptoms. ;In more severe cases, people may experience problems with speech or hearing, double vision, hallucinations, personality changes, and loss of consciousness.; Other severe complications include loss of sensation in some parts of the body, muscle weakness, partial paralysis in the arms and legs, impaired judgment, seizures, and memory loss.

Important signs of meningitis or encephalitis to watch for in an infant include fever, lethargy, not waking for feedings, vomiting, body stiffness, unexplained/unusual irritability, and a full or bulging fontanel .

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