Could Zinc Supplements Help Prevent Febrile Seizures?

Some evidence suggests that a febrile seizure occurs when the child has low serum zinc levels.

Some evidence suggests that a febrile seizure occurs when the child has low serum zinc levels.

Between 2% to 5% of children will experience a febrile seizure at some point. These seizures, which follow rapid body temperature elevations, occur most often in children ages 6 months to 2 years and peak in the second year of life.

Zinc is an important player in the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Zinc activates a pyridoxal kinase enzyme that decarboxylates glutamic acid and increases the brain’s GABA levels, thereby preventing excitatory neuronal discharge. As a result, zinc deficiencies may lead to less GABA formation.

The Nutrition Journal recently published a study that analyzed 100 children between the ages of 18 months to 60 months to determine the effects of zinc supplementation.

Patients had a history of 1 febrile seizure and were randomized to receive 2 mg/kg/day of zinc sulfate supplementation or placebo for 6 months.

The primary endpoint was rate of recurrent seizures. The researchers followed patients for 1 year after the trial was initiated.

Febrile seizure recurrence was seen in 19 patients from the placebo arm (38%) and 11 patients from the active supplementation arm (22%), which was a statistically significant difference.

Risk factors for recurrence were male gender, children with a family history of seizures, and children with a lower serum zinc concentration at the start of the study.

The study authors concluded that zinc supplementation appears to be safe way to prevent febrile seizures.

Vomiting, heartburn, and abdominal pain were reported as adverse effects in the study participants. However, these effects were “well-tolerated” and disappeared in 2 to 3 weeks, and supplementation was continued. Overall, there was no statistically significant difference between the 2 groups in terms of safety.

The researchers noted that multiple prior studies showed little effect of zinc supplementation on the recurrence of febrile seizures.

Since the sample size of this study was small and the results were not consistent with prior research, zinc supplementation for febrile seizure prevention warrants further research.