When Should You Go To The Hospital If You Have A Seizure?

If you see someone having a seizure, or you experience one yourself, it can be terrifying, especially since it's an involuntary condition. Seizures result from too much electrical activity in the brain causing changes in behavior and may result in the loss of consciousness, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. Anything that causes a spike in abnormal brain electrical activity can cause a seizure, including a brain injury, electrical shock, epilepsy, heart disease, high fever, and certain drugs, just to name a few (via Mount Sinai).

Symptoms of a seizure are varied and can range from being obvious to almost imperceptible, including confusion, a staring spell, uncontrollable movements of arms, and loss of consciousness, explains Mayo Clinic. However, despite seizures looking scary, not every seizure requires a visit to the hospital. But how do you know when to let the seizure resolve on its own versus going to the emergency room?

When a seizure requires a trip to the hospital

First, it's important to understand that seizures are actually fairly common. Up to 11% of people in the United States will have at least one seizure during their life, according to Cleveland Clinic.

However, not all seizures require a trip to the hospital. If you witness someone having a seizure, call 911 immediately if: it's their first seizure, the seizure lasts five minutes or longer or occurs more than once, injuries occur from the seizure, the person has trouble breathing, the person also has a fever, the person is confused or doesn't regain consciousness, they are pregnant, or they have diabetes or a life-threatening condition (per American College of Emergency Physicians).

If a person begins to have a seizure, lay them on their side, cushion their head, and loosen any tight clothing, instructs Mount Sinai. Never restrain them, put something between their teeth, try to make the person stop convulsing, or move the person. Remain with them until help arrives. 

Thankfully, most seizures are not an emergency and almost all of them stop on their own, according to WebMD. It may be scary to witness a seizure, but it's something that can't be stopped once it starts; you and the affected person simply need to wait for it to be over.