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Febrile seizures, seizures which are triggered by a high fever, affect roughly 4.5% of children aged between six months and five years. One to two per cent of children who suffer from febrile seizures as a child then go on to develop epilepsy.
Previous research has shown that in the days after receiving a vaccination, children are more likely to suffer from a high temperature, which can in turn trigger a febrile seizure. In many cases, the perceived risk of a child having a seizure after receiving a vaccination can put parents off vaccinating their children altogether, but now new research has discovered that the vaccine itself has nothing to do with high temperatures caused, nor the seizures.
Now, a research team at Aahus University in Denmark reviewed medical records of 990 children who had experienced seizures after vaccinations during their first two years of life. They then analysed follow-up data for 23 children who were diagnosed with epilepsy after being vaccinated, and whose seizures had started to occur very soon after vaccination.
The team of scientists found that of the 23 children who were diagnosed with epilepsy, 8 of them had Dravet Syndrome – an uncommon genetic condition where seizures are bought on by fever, infectious disease or vaccination. A further 3 children were found to have underlying developmental delay and structural brain defects which could cause epilepsy, and another four children had gene mutations which could cause epileptic seizures, brain malformations which could also cause them or a family history of the condition.
Dr Jorn Olsen, the study leader said that the results ‘provided a pretty strong case that the epilepsy was not caused by the vaccination, the children probably would have developed epilepsy in every case’.
The findings of this research are important because they will help doctors to reassure the parents of children who do suffer from vaccine-related seizures. The research results might also encourage parents who are cautious of the risk of epilepsy, or those who prevent their children from receiving vaccinations because of the fear of them developing the condition, to choose to vaccinate their children as the risk is much less than they originally thought.