The majority of people with epilepsy use medication on a consistent basis to limit or eliminate their seizures. Sometimes, however, people need extra medication for their epilepsy called seizure rescue medications.
Seizure rescue medications are generally for seizures that last longer, happen more often, and are more severe than what a person typically experiences. These rescue drugs are taken only when needed — to decrease the risk of an epilepsy emergency from happening. People should not use their rescue medications in place of their daily epilepsy drugs.
Seizure rescue medications come in the following forms:
Some people also have medical devices implanted inside their bodies. These also serve as a type of seizure rescue treatment.
Many people with epilepsy, as well as their loved ones, are grateful for these rescue medications and treatments. One MyEpilepsyTeam member commented, “My child had a seizure today, but her rescue midazolam stopped it in five minutes.” Another member reported, “I use a nasal rescue medication. It works fabulously and stops the seizure in its tracks!”
Learn more about different types of seizure rescue treatments.
The most common kind of seizure rescue medication comes from a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. These medications enter the bloodstream rapidly, then quickly take effect in the brain. The rescue medicine calms the brain and halts the seizure.
About 30 percent of people with epilepsy who take antiepileptic drugs still experience seizures. That’s why seizure rescue medication is so important for many people with the condition.
Different forms of seizure rescue medication are available. Some are better suited for adults than for children. People who are old enough to swallow whole pills can take oral medications. Infants and young children who are unable to swallow can take the dissolving form of rescue therapy such as clonazepam (Klonopin).
Adults and children use nasal rescue medications when they cannot take the medicine by mouth. These nasal sprays work more rapidly than oral medication. People 12 and older can take midazolam, sold as Nayzilam. Those who are 6 and older can use the nasal spray form of diazepam called Valtoco.
Doctors and other health care providers most commonly prescribe a rectal gel form of diazepam, such as Diastat AcuDial, for children as a rescue medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the medication for children 2 and older who are also on a daily anti-seizure drug plan.
Health care professionals may recommend seizure rescue medications for different types of seizures. Orally dissolving clonazepam is the most common first option for people of all ages who experience seizures in clusters. The rectal gel form of diazepam is most often used as a rescue drug for people having long-lasting seizures.
Although most seizures end within a few minutes, some last longer. Seizure activity that lasts longer than five minutes is called status epilepticus. This type of seizure is considered an emergency situation.
As additional therapies alongside regular seizure drugs, seizure rescue medications are best suited for the following situations:
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Seizure rescue medications can help prevent several negative consequences that may arise from untreated long-lasting or atypical seizures. Rescue medications help decrease the risk of the following:
Despite their tremendous benefit, rescue medications cannot replace a visit to the emergency room. In an emergency, call for medical assistance immediately.
Having a rescue medication on hand is useful for stopping a seizure in several situations. Someone with epilepsy should have their rescue medication close by in these scenarios:
Learn more about using seizure rescue medication as part of a seizure action plan.
Many people with epilepsy, and their loved ones, understand the importance of having seizure rescue medications on hand. One MyEpilepsyTeam team member commented, “For our vacation, I’m getting midazolam for rescue medication while traveling.”
Another MyEpilepsyTeam member stated, “On a positive note, we got a rescue medication to give during a convulsive seizure while in the car or elsewhere outside the house.”
MyEpilepsyTeam is the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones. On MyEpilepsyTeam, more than 107,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.
Have you tried seizure rescue medications? Have they been effective? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.