DEAR DR. DONOHUE: We have a baby boy who just turned 1. Two weeks ago, he had a seizure. I knew he was out of sorts, but I thought it was just a minor, passing thing. My husband and I were scared silly when he began shaking. It didn’t last long, and as soon as it was over, we took him to the hospital. We didn’t know what to do for him during the spell. His temperature at the hospital was 102 F. They told us the baby had a febrile seizure but was OK. Should we have done anything differently? He’s fine now. — C.K.
ANSWER: Febrile seizures are somewhat common, happening to 2 percent to 5 percent of children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years. The peak time for such seizures is 14 months to 18 months. Witnessing a seizure terrifies unprepared parents.
The trigger for these seizures is a temperature that rapidly rises to 102 F (39 C) or higher. The seizure lasts for a few seconds. If it continues for 10 or 15 minutes, the seriousness is greatly increased, and emergency care should be called for.
You took the right approach. You had the baby examined by a doctor, who must make a judgment about the cause of the seizure. Conditions like meningitis, an infection of brain coverings, or encephalitis, an infection of the brain, have to be considered and ruled out. Often, doctors can make that call without having to do more invasive tests like a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). If they have any doubts, then the tap must be done.
During a febrile seizure, remain calm. Do not try to open the baby’s mouth. The baby will not swallow its tongue. Don’t try to restrain the baby. Turning the infant on its side is a good intervention.
Febrile seizures do not cause brain damage. Your anxiety is common to all parents witnessing such an event.
TO READERS: Macular degeneration deprives many older people of their sight. The booklet on it explains what’s going on and how it can be treated. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 701, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My grandson has something called a raised testicle. I don’t understand it, but my daughter said he might need an operation. What’s going on? — B.P.
ANSWER: Your grandson has an undescended testicle. During fetal life, the testicles are located within the abdomen. As the fetus matures, they migrate downward into the scrotum. Somewhere between 2 percent and 5 percent of full-term male babies have a testicle that hasn’t made its way into the scrotum. In premature male infants, the percentage is 30.
If the testicle hasn’t entered the scrotum by 6 months, sperm produced by that testicle are likely to be defective, and the boy has an increased risk of developing testicular cancer later in life. The undescended testicle can be surgically placed in the scrotum.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a kidney stone that the doctor suggests using shockwaves to treat. The “shock” of shockwaves leaves me uneasy. How is this done? — W.F.
ANSWER: If the term “shockwave” upsets you, call them “pressure waves.” The waves are produced by a machine that focuses them on the kidney stone and fragments it into pieces no larger than grains of sand. The person is able to get rid of those tiny pieces by urinating.
Lithotripsy, the name of the procedure, cannot be done for all stones. It doesn’t work for large stones or stones that are in a part of the kidney to which the pressure waves cannot gain full access.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.