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If You Have Epilepsy, Do You Have a Seizure Rescue Medicine?

If You Have Epilepsy, Do You Have a Seizure Rescue Medicine?

This article is for people who are living with epilepsy, their caregivers, or anyone who wants to learn more about epilepsy. The goal of this activity is to help people living with epilepsy and their caregivers talk to and work with their doctors about seizure rescue medicines.

You will learn about:

  • What epilepsy and seizures are

  • What seizure rescue medicines are and how they're used

  • When you might need a seizure rescue medicine

  • Talking to your doctor about seizure rescue medicines and questions you can ask

Test Your Knowledge

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a group of brain disorders that cause seizures. Epileptic seizures result from a sudden increase in your brain's normal electrical activity. If you've had 2 or more seizures more than 24 hours apart, your doctor may diagnose you as having epilepsy.

Epilepsy can start at any age. Some people have epilepsy from birth, but other people develop epilepsy later in life. Epilepsy can be caused by an epilepsy disorder or result from a brain injury due to a stroke, accident, or infection. In many cases of epilepsy, the exact cause is never found.

What Happens During a Seizure?

Seizures are sudden and may last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Just as there are many types of epilepsy, there are many types of seizures.

Some seizures cause people to look confused, blink quickly, or stare into space. They may not reply when spoken to. Other seizures can cause people to cry out, fall, and grow stiff or shake. They may even lose consciousness (become unaware of what is going on around them or black out).

You can have more than 1 type of seizure, and your seizure pattern can change over time.

Can Epilepsy Be Treated?

Many people are able to keep their seizures under control with treatment. Your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan based on the type or types of seizures you have, how often you have seizures, and how long your seizures last.

Treatments for epilepsy your doctor may recommend include:

  • Medicine

  • Surgery

  • Devices

  • Lifestyle changes, including special diets

For some people, epilepsy can go away on its own, but most will need lifelong treatment to help control seizures.

What Is Seizure Rescue Medicine?

A seizure rescue medicine is used to help stop an ongoing seizure quickly with the goal of trying to prevent a medical emergency. Rescue medicines are used to treat seizures that happen somewhere other than a hospital, such as at home, work, or school.

Your doctor may recommend a seizure rescue medicine if you:

  • Still have seizures despite taking your daily seizure medicine correctly

  • Are having longer seizures

  • Are having more seizures in a shorter period of time (seizure clusters)

Although rescue medicines can help prevent trips to the hospital for a seizure, there may still be times when you need emergency medical care.

Seizure Rescue Medicines

Seizure rescue medicines may be used by adults and children, depending on their age and which medicine. They don't replace your daily seizure medicine.

Seizure rescue medicines that your doctor may recommend include:

  • Diazepam nasal spray, which is sprayed into the nose

  • Diazepam rectal gel, which goes inside the rectum (bottom)

  • Midazolam nasal spray, which is sprayed into the nose

If your doctor recommends a rescue medicine, be sure to ask how it's used and when, how fast it should work, and about its possible side effects and how to manage them.

Common Side Effects of Seizure Rescue Medicines

All medicine can have side effects. The most common side effects of seizure rescue medicines are headache and tiredness. If you feel tired after using your rescue medicine, it may be dangerous to do things that need your close attention, like driving a car or riding a bike.

Nasal sprays may also bother your nose or throat or cause a runny nose. With rectal gels, other common side effects can include dizziness, diarrhea, or rash.

If you take other medicines or have other health conditions, you may have an increased risk of side effects. Talk to your doctor about all medicines you take and your overall health. Be sure to tell your doctor if you take opioids, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have an eye condition called glaucoma.

Talking to Your Doctor About a Seizure Action Plan

A seizure action plan is a document that helps you manage your epilepsy. It has information about you, your seizures, and the seizure medicines you take. It also tells others how to help you during a seizure. Your doctor can help you create a seizure action plan and keep it up to date.

Always keep a copy of your seizure action plan with you and at home where it's easy to find. Give copies to people you spend time with, like family members and friends. If you have a child with epilepsy, share the seizure action plan with the child's daycare or school and babysitters.

Dr. Wheless talks about seizure action plans.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Questions you can ask your doctor and healthcare team about epilepsy and seizure rescue medicines include:

  • How can we help control my seizures?

  • What seizure rescue medicines are available, and what are their side effects?

  • If I have a seizure rescue medicine, how and when should I use it?

  • How fast should my seizure rescue medicine work?

  • Can you help me make a seizure action plan?

  • Who should I share the seizure action plan with?

  • Where can I find more information and resources?

Test Your Knowledge

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You have successfully completed the program If You Have Epilepsy, Do You Have a Seizure Rescue Medicine?

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

About Epilepsy

Epilepsy -- National Library of Medicine

Epilepsies and Seizures

Frequently Asked Questions About Epilepsy

Epilepsy Fact Sheet

Managing Epilepsy

Seizure First Aid

Epilepsy Foundation

Patient Handout

Authors and Disclosures


James W. Wheless, MD, FAAP, FACP, FAAN, FAES

Professor & Chief of Pediatric NeurologyLe Bonheur Chair of Pediatric NeurologyUniversity of Tennessee Health Sciences CenterDirectorLe Bonheur Comprehensive Epilepsy Program & Neuroscience InstituteLe Bonheur Children’s HospitalMemphis, Tennessee Disclosure: James W Wheless, MD, FAAP, FACP, FAAN, FAES, has the following relevant financial relationships:Consultant or advisor for: Azurity; Biomarin; Eisai; Jazz; Marinus; Neurelis; Radius; SupernusSpeaker or member of speakers bureau for: Aquestive; Biomarin; Eisai; Jazz; LivaNova; Neurelis; SKLSI; Supernus; UCB Pharma; ZogenixResearch funding from: Aucta; Avexis; Envision; Epiwatch; Marinus; Neurelis; Neurocrine; NeuroPace; Neuro Event Labs; SKLSI; Stoke; UCB Pharma; Xenon; Zogenix

Clinician Reviewer

Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC. Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has no relevant financial relationships.


Christin Melton, ELS

Associate Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC. Christin Melton, ELS, has no relevant financial relationships.


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