Emergency Room Discharge Education


What is a seizure?

The human brain contains billions of specialized cells called neurons. The electrical and chemical signals these cells transmit and receive are at the heart of how the brain functions. Sometimes the neurons in the brain don’t signal properly and this causes a sudden burst of electrical energy in the brain or what is known as a seizure.  

Are all seizures the same?

No, there are many types of seizures. Some seizures cause jerking of your whole body and a loss of consciousness. Some seizures look like a blank stare. Seizure symptoms depend on where in the brain the sudden abnormal bursts of electrical energy happen. 

What is a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or in young children. 

What is epilepsy?

A diagnosis of epilepsy is given to a person who has two seizures or one seizure with a strong possibility that they will have another. 

Can alcohol or drugs trigger a seizure?


What do I do now?

Seizures can be frightening because they often happen without warning so it is important to learn as much as possible about what may have triggered the seizure. 

Call your family doctor or health care provider and tell them that you went to the emergency department after a suspected seizure. Ask them to order an EEG which is a test to measure your brain’s electrical activity.  

How do I get a referral to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment of seizures or epilepsy?

You can ask your family doctor or health care provider to refer you to a community neurologist.

If you are taking an anti-seizure medication and your seizures are not controlled, have your family doctor or health care provider refer you to the District Epilepsy Centre at London Health Sciences Centre to see a neurologist who specializes in the treatment of seizures and epilepsy.

Seizure First Aid for a person with a diagnosis of epilepsy

  1. Stay Calm.When someone has a seizure you need to stay calm. This is very important since most people around you will feel fear during a seizure because they do not understand what is happening and because the seizure happens so suddenly and without warning. We understand that it is frightening for you and your family to witness a seizure, but once the seizure ends there is no need for urgent medical attention.
  1. Protect from injury: Move the person away from any sharp or dangerous objects. Turn them on their side. Loosen anything that is tight around their neck (for example a scarf). If possible, put a sweater or pillow under their head.
  1. Do not restrain the person.You could hurt the person if you hold or pin them down, and it will not stop the seizure.
  1. Do not put anything in the mouthof a person having a seizure. A person may bite their tongue during a seizure, but you risk injuring them if you stick anything into their mouth. You may hear sounds like the person is gagging. This is difficult for you to hear but you need to know that a person cannot swallow their tongue during a seizure.
  1. ALWAYS time a seizure.If a seizure lasts less than five minutes, it is not a medical emergency. After a seizure, a person may appear disoriented and want to sleep. This is normal.

When is a seizure a medical emergency?

  • IF it is a first seizure
  • IF a seizure is over five minutes or if it continues to repeat 
  • IF a seizure occurs in water
  • IF the person having the seizure is pregnant
  • IF the person having the seizure has diabetes – the seizure may be the result of high or low blood sugar levels.
  • IF the person is injured during the seizure

Can I drive in Ontario if I have had a seizure?

In Ontario, physicians are required under law to report anyone 16 years and older – regardless of whether or not they have a license - if they believe they are not able to safely drive.

What you should know is that you may drive with a seizure disorder/epilepsy in Ontario IF medication appears to have prevented your seizures AND you have been seizure-free for six months and your medication does not impair your consciousness.  

You are not alone

Most people do not know very much about epilepsy and seizures, and the first seizure often happens without any warning.   

Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario (www.epilepsyswo.ca) is a community based organization that can provide you and your family with information, seizure first training and tools to manage seizures at home, school and in the workplace. Call 519-433-4073 to speak with an epilepsy educator or email info@clinictocommunity.ca.

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