What are seizures?
- A seizure is a surge of electrical activity in your brain that causes a sudden change in behavior.
Seizures affect different people in different ways, such as:
- Muscle spasms (twitching, tight or jerking muscles)
- Numbness or tingling
- Drowsiness or confusion
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to speak
- Loss of bladder, bowel and muscle control
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
People with certain chronic conditions or illnesses may have seizures.
- Down Syndrome
- Cerebral palsy
Seizures usually last for just a few seconds or minutes.
- Between seizures, people usually feel fine and lead active lives.
Seizures can lead to physical injury.
- Seizures generally aren’t harmful by themselves.
- However, during a seizure, you could:
- Lose consciousness and fall down
- Bruise yourself or break a bone
- Choke on food or vomit
Can you tell if you’re about to have a seizure?
- You might have strange feelings before a seizure.
- These feelings are called an “aura.”
- An aura can be:
- An unusual smell, taste or vision
- An uneasy feeling or upset stomach
If you think you’re about to have a seizure:
- Tell someone!
- Lie down on your side on a soft surface (like a carpet).
You should get medical help right away if:
- The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
- This is the first time you’ve had a seizure
- Another seizure starts quickly after the first one
- Your breathing is not normal after the seizure
- The seizure occurred in the water
- You’re not fully awake after the seizure has stopped
You should also get medical help if you:
- Have diabetes
- Are pregnant
- Have high or low blood sugar
- Have a fever
- Were hurt during the seizure
You can be prepared for seizures.
- Tell family members, friends and caregivers what they should do if you have a seizure.
- Wear a bracelet or necklace with information about your seizure disorder.
How can you prevent seizures?
- Take your medications as prescribed (#1 reason for unexpected seizures).
- Avoid things that can trigger your seizures, like stress.
- Get lots of rest.
- Ask your doctor about what to eat and drink.
- People who have seizures often should not drink alcohol.
How can you prevent injury during a seizure?
- Avoid situations that may be dangerous during a seizure.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Don’t drive without a doctor’s okay.
- Bring along a friend when you exercise or go on long walks.
- Never swim/play in the water alone.
- Avoid using space heaters.
- Avoid using electrical appliances in the bathroom.
- Don’t smoke or light fires when alone.
- Use chairs with arms to prevent falling.
You can learn more about seizures and epilepsy:
- Check out these resources:
- Epilepsy Foundation – What is Epilepsy
- All About Epilepsy and Seizures
Find out how to manage and prepare for seizures:
- Importance of Preparedness and Self-Management
- Epilepsy Foundation – First Aid
- Downloadable Guide to First Aid for Seizures
Last updated on June 10th, 2010