What is a seizure?
Seizures (also known as fits) are caused by rapid and uncoordinated electrical firing in the brain that often causes alternating stiffening and jerking of the arms and legs, and a loss of consciousness or altered consciousness level.
A person having a seizure may lose consciousness during the seizure, or between several seizures. Others may become very rigid and have a fixed staring expression on their face or rolling eyes.
Symptoms of seizures
Most seizures do not last long and will stop on their own, without any treatment. After a seizure, many people experience the following:
- a headache
- aches and pains around their body
Causes of seizures
Certain things are known to cause or trigger seizures. The triggers should be avoided wherever possible. Common triggers include:
Some causes of seizures include:
- illegal (recreational) drugs
- brain tumours or other medical problems, including stroke.
Important: Anyone taking prescribed medicines for seizures should always take the correct dosage and make sure they do not miss a dose.
Some people who have seizures may get warning signs, such as a change in body temperature, visual problems or a strange taste in their mouth for example. These signs are also called ‘auras’. If these warnings occur, try to get to a safe place or position if possible.
Sometimes, other people can tell if someone they know is about to have a seizure. They may look different, their pupils may change size or they may act out of character. Again, if this happens, try to guide the person to a safe location.
Usually when a person has an epileptic seizure there is no need to call an ambulance.
However you should always dial triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance if any of the following apply:
- they have no history of seizures
- they have injured themselves badly
- they have trouble breathing after the seizure has stopped one seizure immediately follows another with no recovery in between
- the seizure lasts two minutes, or is longer than is usual for them any time there is no clear cause for the seizure (eg history of epilepsy)
- recovering from a seizure.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your seizures, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015