Emergency Room Discharge Education

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a symptom of a disturbance in the electricity and chemistry of brain cells making them act differently than they normally would.  A mixed signal is sent from the brain to the body during this disturbance resulting in a seizure. There are multiple types of seizures and many different causes.

Can alcohol or drugs trigger a seizure?


What is a febrile seizure?

Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children. During a febrile seizure, a child often loses consciousness and shakes, moving limbs on both sides of the body. Less commonly, the child becomes rigid or has twitches in only a portion of the body, such as an arm or a leg, or on the right or the left side only. Most febrile seizures last a minute or two, although some can be as brief as a few seconds while others last for more than 15 minutes.

What is epilepsy?

A diagnosis of epilepsy is given to a person who has two unprovoked seizures or one seizure with a strong possibility that they will have another. For example, if they have related findings on their EEG and/or a brain abnormality seen on the CT Scan or MRI, that is known to cause repetitive seizures. 

There are 95,000 people in Ontario with a diagnosis of epilepsy.

What do I do now that I have had a single seizure?

Contact your family doctor or health care provider and ask them to order an outpatient EEG.  

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

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

If you are taking an AED (medication for seizures) 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 where you will see a neurologist who specializes in the treatment of seizures and epilepsy.

How do I keep my loved one safe?

Call your family doctor or health care provider and tell them that you went to the emergency room after a suspected seizure.  Ask them to order an EEG.  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 first seizure.   

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 scary for you and your family to witness a seizure, but once the seizure ends there is no need for urgent medical attention

2. 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.

3. Do not restrain the person. You could hurt the person if you hold or pin them down, and it will not stop the seizure.

4. Do not put anything in the mouth of 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.

5. ALWAYS time a seizure. If a seizure lasts less than five minutes, it is not a medical emergency. After a seizure, you may appear disoriented and want to sleep. This is normal.

When is a seizure a medical emergency?

Call 911:

    • IF it is a first seizure.
    • IF a seizure is over five minutes or if it continues to repeat in an “on and off” manner for more than five minutes.
    • 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.

Why do I feel so scared?

Most people do not know very much about epilepsy and seizures, and the first seizure often happens without any warning. The role of Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario (www.epilepsyswo.ca) is to provide you and your family with the tools to document what happens before, during and after a seizure.  It is to provide you with seizure first aid training and a network of support services. The services are no cost and there is no wait list so please call 519-433-4073 and ask to speak with one of our community educators.

Do I need to take medication?

In the majority of cases, seizures can be controlled with one medication.

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.

Download PDF version of this strategy: Epilepsy and Driving in Ontario

What services are available for me and my family to help us cope with seizures and epilepsy?

If you feel anxious or afraid and are struggling to cope, Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario is here to help. Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario provides education and support services in South Western Ontario or can refer you to a local agency in your region.

Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario – Seizure Education & Support Services

If you have any questions about what you have read -please call the Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario at 519-433-4073 or send us an email at [email protected].