When Raphael (4-year-old son) was born, my sister Rachelle bought me The American Academy of Pediatrics Caring for your Baby and Young Child – Birth to Age 5. An invaluable resource, the Fever chapter is particularly well worn because kids tend to have fevers in multiples and in the early years it’s a worry.
When first reading over the section on febrile seizures I was like: Excuse me? He could what if the fever spikes? No way. I wouldn’t be able to deal with that. But it won’t happen.
As my previous entry shows, it did happen and I did deal without freaking too severely. However, the most terrifying moments of my life used to be those sandwiched between first hearing the air raid sirens start up and feeling missiles thud into Tel Aviv in 1991. Rapha’s seizure night has been added to the list.
After a day of up and down fever and incessant vomiting, mother’s instinct awakened me at 03:00 to find a sweating and shivering Rapha beside me in bed. With an armpit temp of 103.5 F/39.72 C, I administered a fever reducer and applied cold wet compresses to cool him off. We spoke softly and even chuckled over the kitty’s attempts at sneaking beneath the blanket. Then, without warning, his eyes rolled back and he began convulsing and gurgling as his tongue blocked his airway.
I screamed for Tonny to call an ambulance, grabbed a phone to call myself and watched in horror and desperation as the most precious person in my life flailed and struggled to breathe. As I took instructions from the ambulance dispatch, I dressed, threw underwear and clothing for Rapha into a bag and then whispered “I love you” into his ear when he lapsed into unconsciousness a few moments later.
Rapha came to in the emergency room of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center and was admitted to the children’s ward after blood and urine samples were drawn and vitals and a chest x-ray taken. His temperature was registered at 41.2C/106 Fahrenheit.
As a parent this was the hardest thing I’ve endured thus far. I get weepy when the images flash through my mind and I experience anew the comprehension of my son’s (and my own) mortality. Rapha is home now and a virus has been deemed the culprit. His threshold for fever treatment has been lowered meaning in common-speak that he needs swift treatment when the fever starts. Medically it isn’t as horrible as it sounds; personally, it is.
A few bits of information, factoids and things learned to pass along:
- 2% of children under age 5 experience febrile seizures. The general rule is one seizure per bout of illness; More frequent seizures may signal a more serious condition. Normal range seizures last for several minutes max
- If a child is seizing, ensure his/her head and body are safe from hard or sharp objects but don’t attempt to hold the child down or stop the convulsions – a fracture may result.
- NEVER put anything – especially a finger – into a seizing child’s mouth. You WILL lose it as the biting down instinct is particularly strong during episodes. DO, however, move the child’s head to the side so that the tongue falls sideways away from the throat and saliva doesn’t block the airways
- Underarm temperature taking is inaccurate. For a good reading purchase a high end digital ear instrument or use the standard under-the-tongue or rectal modes
- When sponge bathing a child to bring down a fever make sure the water is warm. Overly cold temps will cause chills in turn signaling the body to raise temps even higher
- If a feverish child has a vacant, “zombie” look in his/her eyes or begins talking or behaving in bizarre fashion seek medical help right away
- Try not to panic. Your child needs you to be calm and be there for him or her.
- Note the time so you’re aware of how long the seizure lasted
Good health to us all