What Are They, When Are They Used, and More
Editors:Alyssa Haag,Józia McGowan, DO
Illustrator:Aileen Lin, MScBMC
What are seizure precautions?
Seizure precautions refer to the safety measures taken before an individual experiences a seizure, which is a sudden electrical firing of neurons in the brain leading to change in function and behavior as well as impaired awareness. Seizures are typically experienced by those with epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by recurring seizures. Seizures are categorized into two major groups—generalized seizures and focal seizures—depending on where they begin in the brain, the level of awareness during the seizure, and the type of movements that occur.
When would you use seizure precautions?
Seizure precautions are used in everyday life. For example, water safety is important since one can drown if a seizure occurs in water without proper seizure precautions. Setting precautions, such as having a plastic shower chair or taking showers instead of baths, can minimize the dangers of drowning. Additionally, open flames can be dangerous for any individual experiencing uncontrollable seizures. Cooking on the back burner of the stove, ensuring cups of hot liquids have lids, and avoiding smoking can mitigate the risks of burning oneself. Climbing stairs and ladders can also be dangerous for individuals who experience seizures. Fall-proofing the home can help, which may include putting in carpeting, covering sharp corners, and wearing protective headgear. Lastly, driving precautions may be implemented for someone with new or uncontrolled seizures.
How might seizure precautions vary from hospital to hospital?
Seizure precautions can vary slightly from hospital to hospital, depending on the type of seizure the patient is at risk for. In most hospitals, full resuscitation equipment (e.g., cardiorespiratory monitor and a bag valve mask that supplies readily available oxygen) is placed at the bedside as a precaution in the case of cardiac dysfunction or oxygen deprivation during a seizure. If the individual has seizures in the form of staring-spells, there is a low risk of compromising the airway. Therefore, a bag and mask for oxygen may not be needed at the bedside.
If the individual has seizures that involve jerking of the body and extremities, seizure pads may be placed on the rails of the patient’s bed. The seizure pads are used to prevent the person from injuring themselves against the metal bars of the hospital bed. In most cases, hospital staff will be trained to avoid holding the person down and putting anything in their mouth in order to prevent choking. In case of aspiration, a suction is placed at the bedside. Lastly, the bed itself is typically placed as close to the ground as possible, with side rails up, as part of fall precaution procedures.
What are the most important facts to know about seizure precautions?
Seizure precautions are used in the home and in the hospital to minimize harm and danger for those with epilepsy. Epilepsy is characterized by unpredictable seizures and can affect one’s safety and quality of life. Seizure precautions can include water and heat safety in the form of taking showers rather than baths and cooking on the back burner of the stove. It also may include minimizing the use of ladders and fall-proofing one’s house. In hospitals, the healthcare team will use precautions at the bedside, depending on the severity of the individual’s symptoms. In most cases, cardiac monitoring and oxygen are readily available, and padding may be applied to the bed frame.
Watch related videos:
Seizures: Clinical practice
Seizures: Pathology review
Resources for research and reference
Agostini, S. D., Aniles, E., Sirven, J., & Drazkowski, J.F. (2012) The importance of cardiac monitoring in the epilepsy monitoring unit: a case presentation of ictal asystole. The Neurodiagnostic Journal, 52(3): 250-60. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23019762/.
Sawaf, A. A., Arya, K., & Murr, N. (2020, September 4). Seizure Precautions. StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536958/.
Seizure Safety Precautions. Children's Hospital Colorado. Retrieved from https://www.childrenscolorado.org/doctors-and-departments/departments/neuroscience-institute/resources-for-families/seizure-safety/.What is Epilepsy? Disease or Disorder? Epilepsy Foundation. (2014, January 21). Epilepsy Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics/what-epilepsy.