The most terrifying day of my life - my 1-year-old's febrile convulsion resulting in an ambulance to hospital

By Lauren - Gold Coast Mum

One of my 1-year-old twins was taken to hospital by ambulance last weekend after experiencing a febrile convulsion. 

Without a doubt, it was the most terrifying /petrifying/horrible experience of my life. 

I'm still emotional whenever I think about it. Here's what happened…

One of my three daughters, Victoria, 19-months, had a febrile convulsion at the park Saturday afternoon and we were taken to hospital in an ambulance.

It started out as a nice day at a park in Surfers Paradise, where my four children and I were celebrating the birthdays of two of their little friends.

It ended up being the backdrop for the scariest minutes of my life.

Victoria had a temperature and was a bit unsettled in the morning at home, so I gave her Panadol before we left the house.

Once at the party, Victoria didn’t have much of an appetite, though she was happy, for a little while, to walk around, following after her three other siblings.

Gold Coast Mum, macintosh island park, surfers paradise
Mr 3 and I enjoying our outing. Just moments before Twincess Victoria had a febrile convulsion.

Gold Coast Mum, macintosh island park, surfers paradise

Gold Coast Mum, twins, out n about double pram,
Victoria (left) and Natalia. Victoria was warm so wasn't wearing as many layers as Natalia. 

The kids were having their last play in the playground as we were getting ready to head to the car to head home.
Victoria had had a short nap in the pram and I got her out to change her nappy.

As I laid her down, I expressed my concern to my sister and our friend who was nearby, that Victoria seemed to be quite hot again, and not her usual self, so I’d be heading to the doctor straight from the park.

Just as I was fastening her fresh nappy, Victoria started vomiting and convulsing. 
I laid her down and screamed out to my friend to call ‘Triple 0’ and to my sister who was playing with twincess Natalia on the swing.

Luckily my sister, my children’s god-mother, had joined us at the park (as it was on her way home from work) and was there when it all happened and was a huge help.

The incident was pretty traumatising for us all - the kids & our friends whose birthday we were celebrating at the park.
Victoria lost all colour, looked grey and no colour in her eyes. 
It was the most horrible, terrifying, heartbreaking thing I've ever seen.
We actually thought we were losing her as she didn't appear to breath either.
Our friend was still on the phone to ‘Triple 0’, Victoria was still convulsing and even though we were doing everything required of us/ that first aid training tells you (having her lay safely and then place her in the recovery position) I still felt hopeless, like we were losing her and there was nothing that could be done.
I was thinking ‘this can’t be happening, pleeeease wake up’, then ‘f#$%, it’s happening, this is real, she’s in trouble here, we need HELP’.
I was yelling 'HELP PLEASE, my baby!'
I stood up and was freaking out screaming/ flailing my arms about screeching for help to passers-by and people in the distance having BBQs in the park.
Luckily a Registered Nurse was nearby and became alerted to the commotion and he rushed over to help, joining my sister kneeling down next to Victoria. He gave the stats over the phone to 000 whilst we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

The seizure stopped after around 6 mins (though it felt like hours!) and the ambos arrived 3 minutes later. 

As Victoria and I got in the ambulance, my sister and our friends with their kids, stayed with my other three children and I called my husband to meet them there at the park as Victoria and I were on the way to hospital.

Gold Coast Mum, blogger, baby, febrile convulsion, park, surfers paradise, ambulance, hospital

Once in hospital, it took a few hours for Victoria to come good as she couldn't keep down Panadol etc which was needed to get the temperature down.

My hubby and sister took our kids back to our place where my Mum joined them to look after the kids with my sister so hubby could join me back at the hospital.
The doctors reassured us saying it's just something that can happen and that fevers can spike like that without any warning.
My hubby had a few febrile convulsions when he was little too.

We were kept under observation Victoria’s temperature came down and she could stand again, though she still wasn’t her normal self. 
We were discharged around 10.30pm. 

We came home and Victoria wolfed down some food before falling asleep sitting on my Mum’s lap, and was transferred to bed.

I hardly slept. I was up during the night to check on her repeatedly. Checking she was breathing. Checking she wasn’t too hot.

During the day on Sunday Victoria was still lethargic with increasing temps as she couldn’t keep down any Panadol.
(I stayed home with her and sent hubby and my sis off with the kids to the Disneyon Ice Brisbane show that we had all been looking forward to).

I called the hospital with my concerns, speaking to the doctor who had assessed Victoria the night before, and Victoria and I made the trip back to hospital where we were admitted.

Because she'd been spewing up the Panadol and water, Victoria had been off food for almost 24 hours.
Though, as luck should have it, my plans to wean the girls off their remaining 2/3x daily breastfeeds in the coming weeks went out the window as she was still happy to breastfeed and the doctors didn’t need to give her any extra fluids/IV as she was getting everything she needed from the breastmilk.

Victoria had a cannula inserted so blood tests could be conducted.
She also had an X-ray to rule out any chest infections/pneumonia.

The blood tests confirmed there was an infection of some sort and I stayed up most of Sunday night holding a wee jar near her bare bottom in an effort to catch a wee sample for the doctors. 

Which I finally got at around 9am!

Gold Coast Mum trying to catch a wee sample from a baby isn't easy

The urine sample confirmed a UTI and she was quickly given antibiotics.

And we were released in the afternoon when she was back to walking around and had regained some colour.

Since then, she’s been on the improve, though still fragile and not 100% but she’s getting there. I/ we're all just so thankful that Victoria is OK.
I'm still pretty shaken up. 

And I know Miss 5 is still concerned as she has asked a couple of times about the day of the incident, ‘why was mummy crying’, and ‘did Victoria nearly go to heaven?’, ‘I’m going to be a doctor when I’m bigger so I can help fix people too’.
Heart melt.

I appreciate that I'm fortunate enough to have only had to deal with an unwell child for a few days (hats off to parents dealing with major/ongoing illnesses/ injuries/hospital stays etc as you are so unbelievably strong).
This one incident has shaken me to the core.
I think it’s important to share this information, as even though I completed a First Aid course years ago, I had no idea how common febrile convulsions are, and that, usually, children make a full recovery.

Knowing this may have possibly taken away some of the terror on Saturday when I was catching my baby’s vomit and watching her little body go limp, thinking she was gone.

The card Miss 5 made for her baby sis.

Febrile Convulsion facts:

* Approximately one in 20 children will have a febrile convulsion.
(An increased chance if one of the parents had convulsions when younger.)

* They most commonly occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years and are more common in boys.

* A febrile convulsion/ seizure can happen when there is a sudden rise in body temperature (eg 38 or above). Most occur with common illnesses such as ear infections, coughs, colds, flu and other viral infections which would increase a child’s temperature.

* Watching a child have a convulsion can be very frightening and distressing, though in most cases, is harmless. Though please seek medical attention to be sure.

* Most seizures are less than five minutes in duration and the child is completely back to normal within sixty minutes of the event.

* After a single febrile seizure there is a greater chance of another one. There is no way to predict who it will affect or when it will occur.

Symptoms of febrile convulsions:

*loss of consciousness (black out)
*twitching or jerking of arms and legs
*breathing difficulty
*foaming at the mouth
*going pale or bluish in skin colour
*eye rolling, so only the whites of their eyes are visible

What to do:

* Stay calm

* If you can, check there is nothing in the child’s mouth, though DO NOT poke around in the mouth.

* Don’t try to restrain/shake/slap or ‘wake’ the child.

* Clear space to ensure the child is in a safe space (eg won’t hit their head).

* If someone is with you, get them to call an ambulance, or if not stay with the child while you telephone, speak calmly and clearly to the emergency services, while reassuring your child as much as you can.

* Put the child in the recovery position, rolled onto their side.

* When the Paramedics arrive make sure you give correct information about the seizure, eg roughly how long it has lasted, what happened. 

*Your child may take 10 to 15 minutes to wake up properly afterwards. They may be irritable during this time and appear not to recognise you.

* A medication is available for children with a history of febrile convulsions lasting longer than five minutes, though most children don’t need it.

*Gold Coast Mum is not a medical professional and advises you to seek professional advice from a Doctor/medical professional.

A huge thank you to the my sister, the Registered Nurse who responded and provided assistance (thank you mystery man), my friends who called Triple 0 and helped look after the kids during the commotion and my Mum for minding the kids at home.



  1. How scary for you! I believe it's the suddenness of the rise in temp that causes the convulsion as opposed to hitting a certain number of degrees and as you say, most make a full recovery. It's a hard one, a fine line, even. I know I generally delay giving panadol because the fever is the bodies way of fighting infection so sometimes bringing it down too early is detrimental as well. We can only try our best. Just a thought though- it might be an idea of you to have some panadol suppositories handy- I know it sounds awful but they are a godsend when a child needs paracetamol but can't keep it down. My friend in an RN in emergency, she said they use them in cases like your daughter's often. Hopefully that was the first and last for you.

    1. Thanks Amy - yeah it's a tough one. Ooh great tip re the suppositories. Will def keep that in mind next time!

  2. That would have been terrifying Lauren. I'm so pleased that Victoria is alright now. x

  3. How awful. Hopefully your daughter has made a full recovery. Thinking of you.

  4. As the mum of a 1 year old little girl, I cried through this, because I could all too easily put myself in your shoes to feel your terror and anguish. I do know a bit about febrile convulsions, as 3 or 4 of my friends with children the same age as my son (3 years) and their children had them, so I know that they are not as alarming as they seem, but even knowing that, I would find it difficult to hold myself together.
    Hoping that you are all feeling a lot better now.
    Dani @ sand has no home

    1. Oh Dani, I'm the same when it's children around the same age as mine :-(
      Yes it was just terrible, and I really didn't know enough about it to know everything was going to be OK. It was just horrible and something I hope doesn't happen again. x

  5. That is so scary and I had a long conversation with my husband after reading this and he gave me the low down (he is up to speed on his first aid, I on the other hand am going to book myself into a course!). Glad he was ok.

    1. Yeah it's certainly made me want to go and brush up on first aid again. Can never be too prepared. x

  6. How scary. This is my biggest fear with my daughter as her temps can get quite high quite quickly. Thankfully she's never had one though. I'm glad your daughter is on the mend.

    1. Thanks Toni. I feel like I just knew it was going to happen. It's very odd. So glad all is OK now x

  7. I have goosebumps and tears in my eyes (due to my uncanny ability to put myself directly in your shoes) Oh Lauren how very horrific and terrifying that must have been absolutely petrifying. Thank you for sharing this experience, but I hope I never need to know this. Fancy a RN being there when you needed it. Big hug mumma xxx

    1. Thanks Em. It was truly my worst nightmare (except thankfully my voice worked when I was screaming out for help as opposed to those dreams where it's an emergency and either a) no voice is coming out or b) your fingers won't type the phone number for emergency services.)
      Yes there were many positives with the location and timing. If I was driving home on my own with all 4 kids, it would have been more scary and chaotic. So thankful my sister and friends were there. xx

  8. Oh you poor thing. It is just horrible. One of my children has epilepsy and seeing her have a grand mal seizure is like having the wind knocked out of you every time.

    1. Oh Natalie, I can't imagine. How frightening. x

  9. wow you poor thing what an awful experience. I never knew the convulsion could make children go limp and look lifeless, I always imagined it would be a lot of shaking about - disturbing but very clear what was happening. Your story and another one I've read recently suggests that the scariest thing is seeing your child go limp and look like they're not breathing. Good on you for getting through such a traumatic experience and passing on the message.

    1. Yes Laney it was worse than what I imagined it to be also. At least I know for if it ever happens again, though I'm sure it'd be just as scary.

  10. Oh, Lauren…how absolutely terrifying for you. I'm sure it was so hard for you to relive the ordeal when writing this post but thank you for sharing and adding some extra information too. I hope the little poppet is starting to feel better x

    1. Thanks Grace. Yeah I didn't realise how common they are, yet not really discussed much, so happy to share the information in case it helps anyone else be more prepared if it ever happened o their loved ones. x


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