What is it?
A seizure is the uncontrolled movement of muscles. Seizures happen when nerve cells in the brain don’t act the way they should. A seizure often lasts less than five minutes. Seizures often happen randomly but they can be a sign that there is something abnormal happening in your body. There could be an electrolyte imbalance (like low levels of calcium, magnesium, and sodium), a brain tumor, trauma or injury to the brain, fever, infection, or overdose/withdrawal from alcohol or illicit drugs. There are different types of seizures. The type of seizure you have depends on what is causing the seizure.
How is it treated?
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.
If you are with someone who is having a seizure:
- Keep the patient safe but do not try to hold the person still. Loosen any clothing around their neck.
- If they fall to the floor, put padding (like rolled-up clothes or towels) under their head and roll them onto their side.
- Try to see what type of movements they make, 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 they are biting their tongue. Keep your fingers and hands away from their mouth. Do not attempt to put anything in their mouth.
- Do not move them unless they are not in a safe spot (like near a hot radiator, glass door, or stairs).
- Once the seizure is over, cover them with a blanket and let them rest.
- Do not give medicines, food, or liquids until the person is fully awake.
- Call their provider when they are awake to let them know and for any follow-up.
- Call 911 for the person if:
- The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
- It is their first seizure.
- They have trouble breathing or walking after the seizure.
- They have a second seizure right after.
- They are hurt.
- The seizure happens in water.
- The person has a health condition.
When should I contact my care team?
If you have a seizure or a change in your level of consciousness, call your provider. If you have had a seizure and you are alone, call 911.
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.