Getting Help for Seizures and Emergencies

Let's Talk About Epilepsy and Seizures
Community Corner: July 15, 2015

Epilepsy News From:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This month is highlighting treatment of seizure emergencies for professionals in epilepsy care. So what should people with epilepsy and families know about seizure emergencies and how can they get help?

Understand what an actual seizure emergency is and what may be a potential emergency if left untreated.

Status epilepticus is a condition that occurs when someone has seizures that last too long or occur one right after another. This is the most important seizure emergency. If this happens, someone should call 911 or your local emergency number. Status epilepticus needs to be treated in a hospital setting!

  • Convulsive status epilepticus – this occurs when a tonic-clonic seizure lasts 5 minutes or longer or a person has repeated seizures.
  • Nonconvulsive status epilepticus – this is seen when a person has repeated periods of absence or complex partial seizures.

What is a potential seizure emergency?

A potential emergency is a situation that if not stopped or treated could become an emergency. For example, some people have seizures that occur in clusters. A cluster could be a certain number of seizures, such as 2 or more over a number of hours or days. Or seizure clusters could occur when triggered by something such as missing a dose(s) of medicine, when sick with another illness, around the time of a female’s menses, or when medicine changes are made. In these situations, it’s important to identify the patterns and see what can be done to stop or abort the clusters. Here’s a few examples of what to do.

  • Use reminders not to miss meds and see if clusters go away.
  • Treat other illnesses quickly.
  • Ask your epilepsy team for a rescue medicine to use when clusters occur.
  • If you have a rescue therapy already prescribed, make sure you know when to use it and how often!
  • If you have a vagus nerve stimulator, use the magnet when seizures start.

Read about seizure emergencies and find out if you are at risk.

Learn more about seizure clusters.

Find out about rescue therapies and what you need to know.

What other kinds of emergency situations may occur?

  • Sometimes other illnesses can trigger seizures. If a person has been sick and has a change or increase in seizures, talk to your doctor or nurse. You may need to get checked to see if another medical problem is brewing or needs treatment.
  • If you’ve lost consciousness during a seizure, gotten sick to your stomach (and vomited), or could have gotten fluid or food into your lungs during or after a seizure, get checked by a doctor! Pneumonia can be a complication after some seizures.
  • If you hit your head during or immediately after a seizure (such as during a fall), get checked out. A scan of the head may be needed to make sure there’s no complication, such as bleeding or other obvious injury. Not all falls and head bumps need a scan, but if the head was hit hard, you don’t feel well after a seizure, or have any concerns, call your doctor or go to emergency room and let them check you out.
  • Sometimes people break bones during a seizure. So, if you have pain, can’t move a part of your body, or have other unusual signs or symptoms, go get checked at an emergency room. This includes trouble breathing or pain with coughing. A broken rib can cause problems taking a deep breath or coughing.

Read about accidents and injuries.

How can I be prepared to avoid a seizure emergency and let others know when to get help?

Everyone with seizures and epilepsy should have a seizure action plan or seizure response plan. These are the same thing, just different terms you may hear. These plans give you a place to record information about your typical seizures, medications you take daily, what an emergency may look like for you, and what to do in case one occurs. You can list your health care team, who to call, what hospital you usually use, and more.

This is a great way to tell others the critical information. Keep in mind, before, during, or after a seizure you may not be able to talk or remember all this information. Families and friends need this information at their fingertips, so give it out early and discuss it together so everyone is prepared.

Learn how to make a Seizure Action Plan.

Use your seizure diary to make a plan.

Download a paper copy below and get started.

  • Seizure response plan for all ages and any setting
  • Seizure response plan specific for students

Hope this helps! Think Seizure Preparedness!

Patty Osborne Shafer RN, MN
Associate Editor/Community Manager

Authored by: Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN on 7/2015

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The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

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