Some people may have easy to control seizures and never have emergency situations. However, there are some factors that may make you more likely to have uncontrolled seizures and seizures emergencies. It’s important to know if any of these situations pertain to you and to talk to your doctor about your risks.

What is a Seizure Emergency?

A seizure is considered an emergency when it lasts a long time or when seizures occur close together and the person doesn't recover between seizures. Just like there are different types of seizures, there are also different types of emergencies. 

  • Seizure clusters: These may not be an emergency by itself, but a cluster of seizures that gets longer or occurs closer together could develop into one. By stopping a cluster or group of seizures, you may be able to prevent an emergency from developing. 
  • Status epilepticus: This is a medical emergency when seizures last too long or occur too close together. This can be life-threatening - everyone should know how to recognize what status epilepticus is and when to call for emergency help. 
  • Injuries or illnesses: While most injuries are minor and can be treated at home, serious problems can occur as a result of a seizure. A problem may develop immediately after a seizure or hours to days later. Make sure you know what to do if symptoms of injuries or illnesses occur. 

Am I at risk for a seizure emergency?

Read through the lists below. If you answer yes to any of these questions, talk to your health care team about your risks for emergencies and what to do next. 

Have you ever....

  • Been diagnosed with status epilepticus?
  • Had one seizure after another?
  • Had clusters of seizures over a number of hours or days?
  • Had a generalized seizure lasting 5 minutes or longer?
  • Had long partial seizures or periods of confusion?
  • Started or stopped medicines without medical advice?

Do you have...

  • Poorly controlled seizures?
  • A known cause of seizures, such as infection, stroke, brain tumor?
  • Problems remembering medicines?
  • Difficulty taking medicines on a consistent schedule?
  • Problems affording medicine?
  • Seizures during sleep?
  • Live alone?
  • Low blood levels of medicine?
  • More seizures during medicine changes?
  • Taking many seizure medicines?

Do you have problems taking medications?

Not taking medicines consistently and as prescribed is one of the most common risk factors for seizure emergenices. If you or your loved one has had problems taking medicine now or in the past, make sure to talk to your doctor and nurse about how to make taking seizure medicines easier.


  • If you've checked one or more problems in this list, it’s time to make sure you have a plan for preventing seizure emergencies and managing your medicines.
  • Take the list to your doctor and talk about what this means for you - ask for help assessing your risks.
  • Develop your own Seizure Response Plan.
Authored By: 
Steven C. Schachter, MD
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Wednesday, February 5, 2014