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Living with Seizures

A surge of electrical activity

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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.

  • Epilepsy
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hypoglycemia

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:
    • Dizziness
    • 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.
    • Exercise!
  • 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:

  • The Basics of Epilepsy
  • Epilepsy Foundation – First Aid
  • Downloadable Guide to First Aid for Seizures
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PDF icon FP_LivingwithSeizures_English_May2014.pdf 449.55 KB
Last updated on Thu, 06/10/2010 - 10:21