Febrile convulsions (also called febrile seizures or fits) are caused by a sudden change in a child’s body temperature and are associated with a fever.

They usually occur in children between 6 months and 6 years of age. Approximately 1 in 30 children will have a febrile convulsion because of a fever.

Febrile seizures can be alarming and upsetting to witness but they are not harmful to your child. They do not cause brain damage and will not affect your child’s development.

Signs and symptoms

Your child may be having convulsion if:

  • their body becomes stiff
  • they make sharp jerking movements with their arms and legs
  • they bend their head backwards
  • they roll their eyes rolling back so only the white part can be seen.

Your child will not be able to answer you if they are having a febrile convulsion. Convulsions may last for several minutes (usually less than 5 minutes and rarely more than 15 minutes).

What to do when your child is having a convulsion

  • You will not be able to stop the convulsion while it is happening.
  • Make sure your child is not in an area where they can fall over or hurt themselves.
  • Call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
  • Roll your child onto their side when the convulsion is over.
  • Your child will usually feel drowsy afterwards.

Care after a convulsion

Your child may be ‘out of sorts’ for a day or so but this will pass. No medications are needed except paracetamol or ibuprofen (follow the recommended dosage instructions).

Sometimes children who have febrile convulsions, particularly long ones, will need to be ob­served in hospital. In most cases, no follow-up appointment is required after a single febrile convulsion.

When to seek help

In an emergency, or if your child is having a convulsion, call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

If you're not sure whether to go to an emergency department, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and speak to a registered nurse.

See your GP if your child has had a convulsion. They can check your child’s temperature and look for the cause of the fever. This may involve some tests, depending on your child’s symptoms.


It is not possible to prevent febrile convulsions as they are often the first sign that a child is getting sick.

However, the following can help manage a fever:

  • paracetamol (Panadol) or ibuprofen (Nurofen) may help reduce temperature and make your child feel a little better (follow the recommended dosage instructions on the package or bottle)
  • make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids
  • avoid overdressing your child.
  • avoid cold baths that may cool your child down too quickly.

Does a febrile convulsion mean my child has epilepsy?

Having a febrile convulsion does not mean that your child has epilepsy. Even if your child has febrile convulsions in the future, they are unlikely to develop epilepsy.

Some children may have a second (or third) febrile convulsion when they are sick with a fever at another time. These children are unlikely to develop epilepsy.

Developed by the Emergency Department, Queensland Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of consumers and carers.

Resource ID: FS012. Reviewed: July 2022.

Disclaimer: This information has been produced by healthcare professionals as a guideline only and is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your child’s doctor or healthcare professionals. Information is updated regularly, so please check you are referring to the most recent version. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

Last updated: October 2023