Seizure

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

What is it?

A seizure is uncontrolled movement of muscles, which occurs when nerve cells in the brain act abnormally. A seizure usually lasts less than five minutes. Seizures usually occur randomly but can be a sign that there is something abnormal happening in the body such as an electrolyte imbalance, a brain tumor, trauma to the brain, fever, infection, or overdose/withdrawal from alcohol or illicit drugs. There are different types of seizures and the type of seizure a patient has depends upon what is causing the seizure.

Management

If you have a seizure, your provider will want to figure out the cause and type of seizure. Your provider will talk to you about treatment options. If anti-seizure medication has been ordered, take it as instructed. Do not stop taking your medication without talking to your provider first.

What you can do when someone is having a seizure:

  • Keep the patient safe but do not try to hold the patient still. Loosen any clothing around the patient’s neck.
  • If the patient falls to the floor, put padding (such as rolled-up clothes or towels) under their head and roll them onto either side.
  • Try to notice what type of movements the patient makes, how long the seizure lasts, and what parts of the body move with the seizure.
  • Do not try to open the mouth during a seizure, even if the patient is biting their tongue. Keep your fingers and hands away from the patient’s mouth. Do not attempt to put anything in the patient’s mouth.
  • Do not move the patient unless they are in a dangerous location (for instance, near a hot radiator, glass door, or stairs).
  • Once the seizure is over, cover the patient with a blanket and allow them to rest.
  • Do not give medicines, food, or liquids until the person is fully awake.
  • Call the patient’s provider. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, it is the person's first seizure, the person has trouble breathing or walking after the seizure, the person has a second seizure right after, the person is hurt, it happens in water, or if the person has a health condition, call 911.

When should I contact my care team?

If you have a seizure or change in your level of awareness or consciousness call your provider. 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seizure First Aid. 2019. Found at: https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/about/first-aid.htm

Seizures. American Cancer Society. 2020. Found at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/physicalsideeffects/dealingwithsymptomsathome/caring-for-the-patient-with-cancer-at-home-seizures

Singh G, Rees J, Sander J. Seizures and epilepsy in oncological practice: causes, course, mechanisms and treatment. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. 2007:78(4)342-349.

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