Two weeks ago my son had a febrile seizure (convulsions) from a sudden high fever of over 41 degrees celcius.
It was absolutely terrifying.
If you are living in Japan or traveling here with your baby, make sure you read this post.
Do you know what to do if your baby has convulsions from a sudden high fever in Japan?
Do you know how to call the ambulance?
Before having a baby I had never heard of febrile seizures. It was only last year that I heard about it from two friends of mine in Japan who had experienced this with their babies. Just listening to my friends’ experience really helped me to recognise what was happening. But it didn’t prepare me for what was to come though. It was SO much worse than I had ever expected or imagined. It felt like my heart stopped and I went completely into panic.
Febrile seizures seem to be more common in Japan (5-8%) than other countries such as America and Europe (2-5%). The reasons for this are not clear (some research papers indicate genetics), but it may also be due to the fact that you can’t buy children’s fever-reducing medicine over the counter here in Japan, such as children’s panadol or tylenol.
Read below about my experience and how I called for help:
My son had developed a fever during the day. I had given him children’s 1-5 panadol (fever-reducing medicine from Australia) and he had slept for a few hours, but when he woke up he had a fever again. It was already evening, so I decided to give him some dinner, a quick shower, and then give him some more panadol before putting him to bed.
After the shower I put his pajamas on and was just getting a book out of his drawer when I heard him fall over. I quickly turned around and saw him sitting against the wall and his eyes rolled back into his head and he started convulsing.
As soon as I saw it I knew that it was due to the fever. I rushed over and picked him up in my arms and cradled him on the floor and kept saying “it’s okay, it’s okay”. But then it got worse. He went blue in the face and his body went stiff. He couldn’t breath and started foaming at the mouth.
I went into panic and knew I couldn’t call the ambulance on my own. I didn’t want to leave him on the floor while I got my mobile, and even if I did call the ambulance I didn’t know what to say.
So I picked him up and rushed next door to my neighbour and banged on her door and screamed for her to help. She is a mother with 3 young kids. She opened the door and I said “Help call the ambulance!” and rushed inside her apartment and sat on the floor with my son in my arms. She can speak some English and she explained to me that her son had had a febrile seizure before, so she knew what to do and what to say on the phone to the ambulance. I was rocking my son in my arms, but she said stop rocking him and just let him rest and be still. By this time my son’s colour starting coming back to his face and his eyes started to open. He was still stiff and shivering, but at least he was breathing and looking at me.
Then the ambulance arrived. They asked me if I can speak Japanese and I said yes. Then they asked me lots of questions:
- How long did the seizure last?
- Were both arms shaking or just one?
- Were his legs shaking too?
- When his eyes rolled back, did they go straight up or to one side?
Note: If both arms shaking and eyes roll straight up, then the seizure was likely caused by high fever. However, if only one arm is shaking or eyes roll to one side, they explained it could be due to a more serious reason such as a blood clot in the brain.
The ambulance medics checked my son’s pulse and put the oxygen mask on. Then my husband thankfully arrived (my neighbour called him on the phone to tell him what was happening and he was already at our station so he ran home) and we took my son to the hospital in the ambulance.
At the hospital emergency room, the doctor checked him again (heart rate, lungs, throat, ears) and asked questions about what had happened and any history of febrile seizures or epilepsy in our families. Then he said the febrile seizure was likely due to the high fever and explained about the convulsions and what to do if it happens again.
Here is what the doctor said if our baby has another febrile seizure (he said there is 30% chance that the febrile seizure will happen again):
- Lie him on the floor to enable maximum oxygen into the lungs (the doctor said even if it looks like your baby is not breathing, there is a small amount of oxygen getting in).
- Lie him on his side if he vomits.
- Time the seizure. NOTE – If this is your baby’s first febrile seizure since birth, call the ambulance immediately. If your baby has had a seizure before (like mine), the doctor said to time any subsequent seizures and if it lasts under 5min, go to the hospital by taxi. If subsequent seizures last over 5min, then call an ambulance.
- Take a mental note of what is happening to your baby. Are both arms moving or just one? Are your baby’s legs moving too? Did your baby’s eyes roll back straight up, or to one side?
After seeing the doctor, we went home. My son fell asleep in the taxi as it was already late and we put him to bed. He woke up again at 4am with a fever so I gave him some Panadol and after a while he went back to sleep. Then he woke up again at 7:30am with no fever and very talkative. He was very tired and clingy for a few days, but the fever did not return and he thankfully got better.
4 Key Points that I learned if my baby has a febrile seizure:
- Place baby on floor to enable maximum oxygen into lungs (place on side if vomits)
- Try to check your watch when the seizure started and time how long it lasts
- Take mental note – are both arms moving or just one? If so, right or left? Are legs moving as well or just arms? Did eyes go up or to the right or left?
- Call ambulance
For more information, just search “febrile seizure” on the internet and you will find a lot of information and advice for what to do.
How to call an ambulance:
As explained above, I rushed to my Japanese neighbour for help and she called the ambulance for me. If your baby has a febrile seizure and you are in a panic like me or don’t feel confident to call an ambulance in Japanese, make sure you ask for help. If you are traveling in Japan and staying in a hotel, call the hotel reception or rush down with your baby to urgently ask them to call an ambulance.
Ambulance in Japan – Dial 119
Here is a guide for calling the ambulance in Japan (Tokyo Metropolitan Government website):
Please take care everyone. I hope your babies and children never experience this, but if it does happen I hope that this post helps to prepare you.
If you have had a similar experience or have some advice, please write in the comments below. I would really love to hear from you. It is so important for us to share our experiences in Japan and it can really help other parents and families who might be in the same situation.