IT started as a cough which later turned into a fever with high temperature. Bonita Mukyala, a first time mother, was seated at the verandah soothing her irritable little Linnet to sleep.
Suddenly, Linnetâ€™s eyes rolled back. She stiffened, jerked and foam was coming out of Linnetâ€™s mouth. Panic-stricken Mukyala rushed baby Linnet to a nearby clinic. After examination, the doctors told Mukyala that Linnet was experiencing febrile convulsions.
Dr Angelina Kakooza, a paediatrician with the department of paediatrics and child health, Mulago Hospital, says febrile convulsions are abnormal involuntary contractions of the muscles mostly seen in a certain seizure disorder like the rapid shaking of the body.
Dr. Kakooza says febrile convulsions are a common disorder and about 4-5% of the population get them. She adds that they are common in children between three months and six years.
â€œFebrile convulsions are associated with high temperature caused by illnesses like malaria, viral infections such as cough, flu and ear infections,â€ she explains. â€œThe rapid rise in the temperature upsets the normal brain activities causing stiffening followed by jerking movements.â€
However, Dr Kakooza is quick to say that not all children who get fever suffer from febrile convulsions. She attributes the convulsions to genetic predisposition. She says they are common in first degree relatives for example mother, father and siblings.
Dr. Kakooza says convulsions cause panic among mothers, especially if they are happening for the first time or when one has little knowledge about the condition.
Kakooza explains that a child experiencing febrile convulsions cannot respond to voices, stiffens, rolls eyes exposing the white part, has head spasms, breathes with difficulty, jerks the limbs and the child has foam on the mouth. He also falls down and becomes unconscious.
Although febrile convulsions do not cause brain injury, Kakooza says other risks can arise if proper care is not taken to ensure comfort and non-obstruction of the childâ€™s airway.
Injury is one such risk if a patient falls on a sharp object and bites the tongue. Chocking can also result from swallowing what the patient has vomited.
First aid for febrile convulsions
Despite the fear and panic caused by febrile convulsions, Dr. Kakooza says it is advisable to remain calm and carry out the following steps.
Leave the child on the ground. Only move the child in case he is dangerous position
Loosen any tight clothes on the child
lRemove anything the child may have in the mouth. It could be a toy or food
Do not put anything for example garlic or spoons in the childâ€™s mouth. Doing so could lead the blockage of the airway or causing fractures of the teeth
Remove any sharp objects near the child to avoid injuries when the child jerks
Lay the child on the sides in case it vomits to prevent swallowing the vomit.
Do not restrain the child from convulsing by holding the limbs because it may cause injury
Open the windows if the room is hot
Lift the chin if the child has difficulty in breathing
When the convulsions stop, take the child to hospital for check-up to stop the seizures and establish the cause of the fever.
Prevention of convulsions
Dr. Kajumba Muganga, a paediatrician at St. Catherine Clinic, advises parents to keep the childâ€™s temperature low when ill. Here are tips to control temperature.
Place a wet cloth on the babyâ€™s forehead or sponge the baby using lukewarm water.
Do not overdress the baby. The babyâ€™s temperature rises when dressed in layers of warm clothes. Instead, use a light blanket or sheet to cover the baby.
Keep the room cool but do not expose the baby to direct coldness.
Give the baby plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. A baby with a high temperature is likely to lose body fluids through perspiration.
Dr. Kajumba cautions against leaving fevers unattended for more than 24 hours.
What causes convulsions?