Osmolality and electrolytes in cerebrospinal fluid and serum of febrile children with and without seizures. During acute febrile diseases mild disturbances of water and electrolyte balance occur frequently. It has been suggested that changes in electrolyte balance, in particular hyponatraemia, might predispose a child to convulsions during febrile illness; however, the changes of electrolytes in the CSF are not known. We have studied the effects of fever and convulsions on water and electrolyte balance in CSF and serum by measuring osmolality and electrolyte concentrations in children. The febrile population consisted of 60 children, 36 of whom had seizures during fever. Twenty-one children without convulsions and nine children with epileptic symptoms were nonfebrile controls. We noticed that CSF is subject to changes in osmolality and electrolyte concentration during fever, while convulsions do not exhibit such changes. CSF osmolality and sodium concentrations were lower in febrile children than in nonfebrile controls. The osmolality in febrile children with convulsions was 3.8% (P < 0.01) and without seizures 3.5% (P < 0.01) lower than in nonfebrile nonconvulsive children. The changes in CSF sodium concentration, and to a lesser extent potassium and chloride concentrations, paralleled those of CSF osmolality. A positive correlation was observed between the CSF and serum osmolatities (r = 0.73, P < 0.0001), and sodium concentrations (r = 0.63, P < 0.0001). A negative correlation between the body temperature and both CSF osmolality (r = -0.66, P < 0.0001) and sodium concentration (r = -0.59, P < 0.0001) exhibits also the important regulative role of increased body temperature. CONCLUSION: Fever is an important factor for disturbances in fluid and electrolyte balance. The alterations in CSF osmolality and sodium concentration do not, however, give an unambiguous explanation for the susceptibility to simple febrile seizures.