Epilepsia, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) features an article about new research, suggesting that febrile seizures in children may be associated with respiratory alkalosis, indicated by elevated blood pH and low carbon dioxide levels caused by hyperventilation, and independent of the underlying infection severity. Researchers did not observe febrile seizures in susceptible children with fevers due to gastroenteritis, which suggests, that low blood pH levels (acidosis) may have a protective effect.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), febrile seizures, the most common type of convulsive disorder in children, affect almost 1 out of every 25 children and generally occurs between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Earlier studies indicated that febrile seizures are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, which account for an incidence rate of up to 8% depending on geographical region and culture.
Team leader Dr. Sebastian Schuchmann, at the CharitГ©-UniversitГ¤tsmedizin Berlin in Germany and the University of Helsinki in Finland wanted to examine the functional changes linked to febrile seizures. They evaluated 433 enrolled children with similar fever levels, who were hospitalized for febrile seizure (n=213) or gastroenteritis (n=220). All pediatric participants underwent blood pH and carbon dioxide level measurements upon admission.
The researchers discovered respiratory alkalosis in children with febrile seizures and metabolic acidosis in pediatric patients admitted for gastroenteritis. Apart from 15 patients in a subgroup with alkaline blood pH levels, they discovered no febrile seizures in children with gastroenteritis. Researchers discovered, that 8 patients admitted on separate occasions for febrile seizures and gastroenteritis, children admitted with febrile seizure showed elevated blood pH, but more acidotic pH was found in those admitted with gastroenteritis.
In a concluding statement Dr. Schuchmann said:
“Our findings reveal that febrile seizures are associated with respiratory alkalosis and unrelated to the severity of the underlying infection or fever level. Further investigation of methods that control the body’s acid-base status may lead to the development of novel therapies for treating febrile seizures.”
Based on their results, the researchers suggest an application of 5% carbon dioxide in the breathing air as a possible treatment for febrile seizures.