A seizure occurs when the electrical activity in your brain is disrupted, thereby disrupting brain cells from effectively sending messages to each other.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that if you’ve had two or more seizures, your doctor may diagnose you with epilepsy.
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.
A few things to note about seizure prevention
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.
Doing so can also help reduce the chances of developing related conditions, like:
- difficulty with thinking
Seizure prevention is dependent on an overall management and treatment plan, such as taking your prescribed medications.
Talk with a healthcare professional about the following measures that may help.
10 tips to prevent seizures
Seizure prevention and epilepsy management depend on taking your prescribed medications as well as maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.
Consider the following measures to discuss with a healthcare professional.
1. Take your medication as prescribed
Anti-epileptic medications are designed to help prevent seizures. You should never stop taking these medications without your 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 adverse effects, which may involve seizures.
2. Don’t consume 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.
However, 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 maintain 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 percent of people with epilepsy have a rare form called photosensitive epilepsy. With this type of epilepsy, your 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 anti-epileptic drugs 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 — or even months — after the injury.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, once you’ve had a seizure following a head injury, your chances of having another seizure double.
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. Call a medical professional if your infant has a high fever
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 for emergency medical help 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.
10. Consider surgery
Northwestern Medicine estimates 20 percent of people with epilepsy may be candidates for minimally invasive surgery if medications don’t work to prevent seizures.
Two possible techniques you may discuss with your doctor are:
- laser ablation
- responsive neurostimulator (RNS) insertion
What to do (and not do) in an emergency
While not all seizures require emergency medical attention, you should call 911 if a child has a seizure of any duration, an adult has a seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, or your loved one is injured 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 minute
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
Prescription anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are first-line treatments for seizures. Also known as antiseizure medications or anti-convulsants, these drugs 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, like:
- difficulty with thinking
Others may pose more long-term risks, such as hormonal conditions or osteoporosis.
Other treatment options for seizures may include:
- following a ketogenic diet
- inserting a vagus nerve stimulator in your chest
- undergoing brain surgery
When to talk with a professional
Once you’ve had a seizure, you may be at risk of future episodes the rest of your life.
It’s important to work with your doctor to come up with a long-term management plan. This likely includes:
- lifestyle changes
- other preventive measures.
It’s also important to call a medical professional 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.
The bottom line
Due to the intricate nature of seizures, there’s no way to completely prevent them once you’ve had one.
However, taking AEDs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are ways you can help.
Contact your doctor if you’re not happy with the results of your current treatment plan. Never stop taking medications on your own without consulting a medical professional.