While there’s no one way to prevent a seizure, following a well-rounded treatment and management plan can help. This can include getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol.
A seizure occurs due to abnormal or overactive electrical activity in the brain, which disrupts brain cells from effectively sending messages to each other.
If you have epilepsy, or another condition that puts you at risk of recurring seizures, it’s important to take preventive measures to stop them from occurring.
Follow these tips to keep someone safe during a seizure.
What to do
In the case of a seizure, you can help a loved one by:
- remaining calm
- placing a pillow or cushion under their head
- laying them on their side for protection if no cushioning is available
- creating space to avoid injuries by moving surrounding furniture and objects
- noting the time the seizure begins and ends
- staying with your loved one for the entire seizure — they can last a few seconds or up to 2 to 3 minutes
What not to do
It’s just as important to know what not to do if your loved one is having a seizure. You can avoid further complications by not:
- placing anything in their mouth in an attempt to prevent tongue biting — this may cause injuries
- moving them to another room
- restraining them
- leaving them alone
When to call 911
While not all seizures require emergency medical attention, you should call 911 or local emergency services if:
- it’s the first time this person has ever had a seizure
- a child has a seizure of any duration
- an adult has a seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes
- the individual doesn’t wake up after a seizure
- the individual experiences repeat seizures
- the individual is injured during a seizure
- the individual who had a seizure is pregnant
Keep in mind that there are different types of seizures that may affect different parts of your brain. Each person’s experiences with seizures may vary, too.
This information can also help reduce the chances of developing related conditions, such as:
- difficulty with thinking
Seizure prevention is dependent on an overall management and treatment plan, such as taking your prescribed medications and making lifestyle changes.
Talk with a doctor about incorporating the following measures into your overall treatment and management plan to help prevent seizures.
1. Take your medication as prescribed
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are prescription medications designed to help prevent seizures. It’s important to never stop taking these medications without a doctor’s approval — even if your condition seems to be improving.
In fact, not taking your medications properly puts you at risk of uncontrolled seizures.
Withdrawal seizures can occur if you skip medication. Medication toxicity from taking too much at a time can result in side effects, which may involve seizures.
2. Avoid consuming alcohol
Alcohol isn’t recommended for people with epilepsy, due to an increased risk of seizures. You may help prevent future episodes by avoiding alcohol.
If you’re experiencing alcohol misuse, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional about how to safely quit drinking.
3. Avoid substance misuse
In addition to alcohol avoidance, it’s important to avoid substance misuse as part of your seizure management plan.
Talk with a medical professional if you’re having challenges with using legal or illegal substances.
4. Practice stress management
Stress can be a trigger for seizures in epilepsy. It may help you reduce your risk of seizures if you manage your stress by:
- getting enough sleep
- taking time to relax
5. Maintain a sleep schedule
Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day can help you maintain a sleep schedule.
Tiredness and short-term sleep deprivation are considered triggers for seizures, so regular sleep can help prevent them.
6. Keep a consistent meal schedule
Hypoglycemia from skipping a meal can cause a seizure, particularly for people with diabetes.
It’s a good practice to keep a consistent meal schedule and have fast-acting sources of glucose on you at all times if you have diabetes.
7. Avoid flashing lights
According to the Epilepsy Society, it’s estimated that about 3% of people with epilepsy have a rare form called photosensitive epilepsy. With this type of epilepsy, seizures may be triggered by flashing lights or contrasting patterns of light.
If you’re photosensitive, such exposure to lights could trigger a seizure immediately.
While AEDs can help prevent seizures, it’s also important to avoid flashing lights and images, as well as those in geometric patterns. Playing video games with rapidly flashing graphics may also trigger seizures in some people.
If you’re suddenly exposed to flashing lights or patterns, quickly cover one or both eyes with your hand. According to the Epilepsy Society, this may help prevent the onset of a seizure.
8. Protect yourself from head injuries
Head injuries can lead to a single seizure or recurrent seizures in someone who doesn’t have epilepsy. The related seizures may occur weeks, months, or even up to a year after the injury.
According to the CDC,
A head injury can also trigger a seizure in someone who already has epilepsy. So, it’s important to protect yourself from future head injuries and the possibility of more related seizures.
Wear a helmet when bicycling, skating, or playing contact sports. Talk with a medical professional about stability exercises to help decrease your risk of falls.
9. Pay attention to fevers
Some children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years may be at risk of developing febrile seizures. These are triggered by fevers of 101°F (38°C) or higher and may accompany infections.
Not every child with a high fever will develop a febrile seizure, and the episode may occur hours later.
Call 911 or local emergency medical services if your child has a seizure. Children with febrile seizures may be at a higher risk of having future episodes, so medication may be necessary to prevent them.
A few options are available for treating seizures. It’s important to work with a doctor to develop the right epilepsy treatment plan for you.
Prescription AEDs are first-line treatments for seizures. These drugs are also known as antiseizure medications or anticonvulsants, and they come in various types and brands.
Some AEDs treat partial seizures, for instance, while others treat more generalized ones.
AEDs can’t cure epilepsy, but they may help prevent future seizures. It’s also important to talk with a healthcare professional about possible side effects, such as:
- difficulty with thinking
Some AEDs may pose long-term health issues, such as increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 3 in 10 people with epilepsy either don’t have success with AED mediation or deal with bothersome side effects. For these people, implanting devices that send small electric currents to the brain may help prevent seizures. Options include:
- vagus nerve stimulation
- responsive neurostimulation
- deep brain stimulation
If you’ve tried medications, devices, and other lifestyle changes but your seizures aren’t well-controlled, undergoing brain surgery may be an option. Common surgical procedures for epilepsy include:
- focal resection, or the removal of a known area in your brain where seizures begin
- disconnection surgery, or the removal of brain connections that cause seizures to spread from one side of the brain to the other
Not everyone who experiences seizures is a good candidate for surgery. Talk with a doctor about your options.
After you experience a seizure, your primary care doctor may refer you to a special type of neurologist known as a epileptologist. This type of doctor specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing seizures.
Once you’ve had a seizure, you may be at risk of future episodes the rest of your life. A neurologist or epileptologist can help you come up with a seizure treatment and management plan. This likely includes:
- medications or other treatments
- lifestyle changes
- other preventive measures
It’s also important to check in with your neurologist or epileptologist if you’re concerned with medication side effects, or if you continue to have seizures despite taking AEDs. They may recommend an alternative treatment to help.
Due to the intricate nature of seizures, there’s no way to completely prevent them once you’ve had one.
But taking AEDs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are strategies that can help.
It’s important to never stop taking medications on your own without consulting a medical professional. Contact your doctor if you’re not happy with your current treatment plan. Together, you can discuss next steps.