It was the most terrifying night ever.
We had just returned from Port Dickson the day before. Everything was fine, except that Amy was beginning to have a little runny nose and a little cough. We didn’t think much of it, because little kids have runny nose and cough all the time.
However, on Tuesday night, as I got Amy ready for bedtime, I noticed that her cold was becoming worse, and so was her cough. I told my hubby that I’m worried she was going to develop a fever.
As she watched her iPad videos, her eyes began to tear, and I thought it was because she was too tired. I encouraged her to lie down and sleep, but she didn’t really want to lie down, because, I presumed, it was hard for her to breathe with her blocked nose. So I got her to lie on a pillow, sideways, with her head slightly elevated.
When I touched her body, it seemed to be a little warmer than usual, but nothing that warranted concern yet. In any case, she fell asleep quite promptly. In retrospect, I should have taken the ear thermometer to measure her temperature.
About ten minutes after she fell asleep, I decided I should sleep too, as I was exhausted. I turned off the room lights, and got settled down. The first thing I noticed was that Amy was breathing harder and faster than usual. Yes, it was because of her cold and her blocked nose. But still, I couldn’t rest and was wondering how to know if she was wheezing. At this point, I was worried that she might develop asthma or something.
Then suddenly, her heavy breathing stopped. She was completely quiet. And in the darkness, I saw one of her hands (the one closest to me) shaking in mid-air. In that first second, I thought she might be scratching herself. But it didn’t seem right.
Immediately, I rolled off my bed to turn on the lights, and when I turned back to Amy, I was horrified.
She was lying on her back, facing the ceiling, with her eyes opened and her hands in mid-air, and she was twitching.
Immediately, I knew that she was in a seizure but I did not know what that meant and what I should do. I panicked!
I quickly lifted her up to a sitting position while calling her name multiple times, and then yelled for my hubby. He rushed into the room and I told him she was having a seizure. But I think by the time he came in, her fits were over. It only lasted a few seconds.
But then, we were washed over by another worry: WAS SHE BREATHING?
Because even though the fits stopped, she became totally unresponsive and lifeless. My hubby carried her up and we kept calling her name and tried to wake her up to no avail. We woke my in-laws up, but nobody knew what to do and everyone was in full gear panic mode.
At this point, my hubby noticed that drool was flowing out of Amy’s mouth, but we still didn’t know if she was breathing. We tried to perform CPR, and was wondering if we should call the ambulance.
But I decided that we should just drive to the hospital, because the ambulance would take a while, and the hospital was just near our house.
We rushed into the car, and my hubby drove like a mad person to the hospital. Throughout the journey, I held on to Amy and kept calling her name, trying to wake her up. I tried to do CPR, but then I realized she was moving her head away from me every time I tried to blow into her mouth. Then I began to hear her breathing.
That assured me a little, but we were still scared. All we could do in the car was pray and pray and pray, and I spoke life and health into her again and again and again. And I kept telling her, “Amy, you must be strong. You must be well.”
The moment we reached the hospital, we ran into the emergency department, and the medical officers took over. I told them this was the first time Amy had fits. They asked if she had fever, and I said the last I touched her body, she was a little warm but I did not measure her temperature. When they took her temperature, it was 40 degrees!
Immediately, they administered medication, stripped her, and sponged her with a wet towel.
And then, she opened her eyes, and began to cry.
The sweetest sound ever!
Still, although she was crying, she was not moving, so I was still worried! Two things in my mind: Did the seizure have any effect on her? Even if it didn’t…. did the high fever leave any damage??
She kept crying as she was being sponged, while I kept talking to her and comforting her. Then when the medical officers tried to put in the IV drip into her hand, she started struggling and KICKING them with all her might!
That’s my girl!!! That means she’s OK!!
But at this point, I still had one worry: her eyes, although opened, didn’t look quite focused. Did the fever affect her sight?!
So I tried to ask her, Amy, where’s mummy?
Amidst her crying, I saw her eyes jerk over to my face when I asked her that. That was when I finally breathed a sigh of relief.
My little girl was OK.
After the medication and the sponging, her temperature soon reduced. She was admitted for the IV drip, further tests and observation. Her fever kept coming back, and we had to monitor it closely because we wanted to avoid her getting into another fit. In the end, the tests showed that she had some bacterial infection, so she needed antibiotics. But other than that, she was fine. Three days later, she was finally discharged.
What we found out was she had febrile fits, a seizure or convulsion that is caused by fever. Apparently, it’s quite common in young children aged between 3 months and 5 years. It normally happens because the child’s temperature went up too high too fast, and it’s the body’s way to protect the brain (or something like that).
So, generally, febrile fits are harmless, although absolutely terrifying to see.
And apparently, once the child gets febrile fits for the first time, there is a high chance that she may get it again if her temperature goes up too quickly again the next time.
Here are some things to do if and when your child gets febrile fits:
1. DO NOT PANIC
Of course, my whole family totally went into panic mode. But the most important thing is to stay calm so that you can continue the next course of action.
2. Note the time of onset of fit
It’s important to note roughly how long the fit lasted, because doctors would want to know. I’ve been told that most fits should last about 30 seconds to 1 minute, even though they feel like a lifetime. Anything longer than 5 minutes might need medication and medical help.
3. Loosen the child’s clothing, especially around the neck.
4. Turn the child to the side, on a lying position.
This is to let whatever drool or vomit flow out of the mouth, because when they are in a fit, they cannot swallow and might choke.
5. Do not insert any object into the mouth.
We’ve heard some people say they put a metal spoon or whatever into the mouth of a person who is having a fit because they were scared that the person might bite his own tongue or something. But the medical officers told us, NOTHING INTO THE MOUTH.
6. Do not give any fluids or medication during the fit.
Take the child’s temperature, and if it’s very high (like in Amy’s case), sponge her down with a wet towel. Wait till her fit is over before administering medication.
7. Wait for the fit to be over.
The child might lose consciousness after the fit, due to tiredness.
8. Bring the child to a doctor to check on the fever.
As mentioned earlier, a child who has gotten febrile fits for the first time would most likely get it again, as her body might be unable to regulate temperature properly. Therefore, if and when the child has a fever, it is very important to be diligent in monitoring the temperature. For Amy’s case, the moment it is above 37.5, I must administer medication already, because it might spike up to 40 very quickly, and that would bring on a fit.
The good news is that febrile fits are generally harmless, and most children outgrow them by the time they turn 5 years old.
I am praying and hoping that this would be a one-off and that Amy will never ever ever ever get it again. Because, even though now we know that it is generally harmless, and we know what to do, IT IS STILL SUPER SCARY.
I am so going to sign up for first-aid courses for infants and children after this.