Repeated febrile convulsions linked to epilepsy

Published: November 30 2019
Last updated: September 29 2022

A new study from Aarhus University in Denmark has found that febrile convulsions can result in a higher risk of developing epilepsy later in life. Febrile convulsions are convulsions experienced by children with a high body temperature or fever caused by illness.

Around 4% of Danish children have febrile convulsions. The risk of having febrile convulsions increases with the child’s fever. The study highlighted a link between repeated febrile convulsions and the risk of epilepsy later in life.

The study, published in the scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics in October 2019, was based on two million Danish children born between 1977 and 2011. The researchers have data for around 17,000 children that have had more than one febrile convulsion.

The study’s lead author is Julie Werenberg Dreyer of Denmark’s National Centre for Register-based Research. She said: “Research has shown an increased occurrence of epilepsy among children with febrile convulsions. However this is one of the first studies to demonstrate such a correlation between febrile convulsions and psychiatric disorders. Not least due to the size of the study, the long period of time that the study covers and the valid data.”

The researcher noted that the study shows a link between febrile convulsions and epilepsy and some psychiatric disorders. However, it does not prove that febrile convulsions actually cause epilepsy Further research is needed to understand what the link is.

Julie Werenberg Dreyer said: “There are still many unknown factors that we don’t know enough about. It may be in genes that we find an explanation for why some children have repeated febrile convulsions and then develop epilepsy and psychiatric disorders,” she says.

The study found that children who have three or more febrile convulsions have a 15% chance of developing epilepsy over the next 30 years. This compares with a risk of just 2% for children who have had no febrile convulsions.

Click here for information on the full study.