Leanne Barnett and her daughter Maia, who had a febrile seizure

Leanne and her daughter Maia, © Dave Fleming/UNP

Would you be able to spot a baby or child having a febrile seizure?

Two thirds of parents surveyed said they did not know what a febrile seizure was, or how to recognise or treat one.*

Luckily for 18-month-old Maia from Swindon, her mum Leanne Barnett did know what to do.

Back when Maia was six months old, Leanne decided to take a baby and child first aid course with the British Red Cross.

It was a good decision. When Maia suffered a febrile seizure, Leanne was able to give her daughter exactly the help she needed.

An ordinary day

Leanne had been visiting her mum in Evesham on the day of Maia’s seizure.

“Maia was feeling unwell and had a bit of a temperature but it wasn’t enough for me to be concerned about. She was playing and seemed perfectly fine otherwise,” Leanne said.

Later when Maia fell asleep on the sofa, Leanne tucked her in with a blanket thinking a nap might be just what she needed.

Not long after, Leanne caught sight of Maia moving. But something was amiss.

“I thought she was waking up but as I got closer I could see she was actually shaking.

“I touched her and could feel her temperature had spiked. When I saw her eyes roll back, I realised she was having a febrile seizure.”

Putting knowledge into practice

Leanne knew what to do because of what she had learnt during her first aid course.

“I immediately took off the blanket to cool her down and moved her onto the floor to protect her from injuring herself.

“My mum was there with me so I told her to call an ambulance.”

Once the seizure was over, Leanne took action to further reduce Maia’s temperature.

“I stripped her down to her vest and while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, turned her on her side with her head tilted back.”

The paramedics soon arrived on the scene and monitored Maia and her temperature, before advising a visit to the GP the next day.

What is a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures are caused by a fever or high temperature. Most febrile seizures happen to babies and children between the ages of six months and three years. At this age, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature hasn’t fully developed yet.

A febrile seizure may look frightening but as Leanne’s story shows, simple actions can help:

  1. The baby or child may arch their back, stiffen their body and have clenched fists. They look red-faced, are hot to touch and sweating.
  2. Protect the baby or child from injury. Do not restrain them.
  3. Help cool them by removing their outer clothes.
  4. When the seizure is over, help the baby or child to rest on their side with their head tilted back. If the symptoms continue or it is their first seizure, seek medical advice.

Having the confidence to act

No-one wants to be in the situation where a child is hurt or unwell and you don’t know what to do.

The first aid for baby and child course Leanne attended gave her the knowledge and skills to treat a febrile seizure – but importantly it also gave her the confidence to act. Leanne said:

“I’m grateful that I had attended a baby and child first aid course which meant I knew what to look out for and how to deal with a febrile seizure. Because of my first aid knowledge I felt confident that I was able to stay calm and help Maia.”

Maia soon made a full recovery and was quickly back to her happy, playful self.

*66% of parents (from survey sample of 2000 across the UK) said they had not been taught to recognise or treat febrile seizures. 65% did not know what a febrile seizure is (26% said they had heard the term but didn’t know what it is; 39% had never heard of it).