DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband and I had a terrible scare this week. Our 13-month-old baby had a convulsion when his temperature rose to 102.

The convulsion lasted a few minutes, but it seemed like hours.

We rushed him to the hospital, and they said he was fine except for an infection they thought might be roseola.

We wonder if there is any brain damage that results from a convulsion. Is there? – R.T.

ANSWER:
Infant febrile seizures, ones triggered by a rise in body temperature, do not cause brain damage.

They are terrifying experiences for parents, but the baby is not worse off after having had one.

The child is, however, slightly more likely to have another febrile seizure if body temperature rises again.

Such seizures happen to children between the ages of six months and 6 years, most often between 12 months and 18 months of age.

Usually the temperature rises to or above 102.2 F (39 C) before a seizure is triggered, but it can happen at lower temperatures also.

Infections are the most common inciting cause, and roseola is particularly known for its propensity to bring on a seizure. It’s a common infant viral illness.

The first signs and symptoms are irritability and a rise in body temperature without any rash. The temperature remains elevated for three to five days. Then, as it comes down, the child breaks out in a red rash but feels much better.

During a febrile seizure, the baby loses consciousness, and the arms and legs twitch. The duration is one or two minutes, but it can last for as long as 15 minutes.

During the seizure, parents should place the baby on his or her side. They can sponge the child with room- temperature water.

When the baby is responding, parents can give him or her an age-appropriate dose of Tylenol.

Taking your baby to the hospital was wise. Serious causes of seizures with high temperature like meningitis have to be considered, and that’s something no parent is capable of handling. The baby’s pediatrician should also be notified as soon as practical.

READERS: Those wanting information on breast cancer can obtain the booklet on that topic by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1101, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had erysipelas twice. What do you know about it? Is it unusual to get it two times? – M.N.

ANSWER:
Erysipelas (ERR-uh-SIP-uh-luss) is something most readers have never heard of.

They have, however, heard of cellulitis. It’s one of the most frequently asked about topics. It’s an infection of the skin and the tissues directly under the skin. Erysipelas is a form of cellulitis.

The infection is caused by a strep germ, and the most frequent site of infection used to be the cheeks. Now it’s more commonly seen on the legs. The skin turns bright-red and is hot.

The border of the infection is raised, and it keeps pushing farther and farther outward in an ever-enlarging circle. The skin is quite painful.

The germ gets into the skin often from a scratch so insignificant that a person pays no attention to it.

Penicillin, the old, faithful standby, is still the antibiotic used to treat the infection, although other antibiotics work well too.

Thirty percent of people who have had erysipelas will have a recurrence within three years. I don’t know why.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I was wondering if a pneumonia shot is advisable for people over 75.

A friend told me that the shots are not recommended for people over 75. Is that true? – G.W.

ANSWER:
No, it’s false. They’re meant for anyone older than 65 and for all those younger than 65 who have a serious illness like diabetes or heart disease.

Although the shot is called the pneumonia shot, it’s only for one kind of pneumonia – the kind caused by the pneumococcus germ.

That’s a germ that’s particularly deadly for older people and for those weakened by other illnesses.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 83, and following hip surgery I developed a dropped foot.

All I hear is that it is something I have to live with. Is there another answer? – D.K.

ANSWER:
It takes a long time for an injured nerve to heal. Sometimes it never does. However, that doesn’t mean something can’t be done for a dropped foot. Any number of braces can make walking much easier for a person with a dropped foot.

I’d see about that now and bide my time, hoping the nerve will regenerate.

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.


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